20: She Ironed Underwear

20: She Ironed Underwear

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Amazing Mom

She Ironed Underwear

My second favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

~Erma Bombeck

I inherited some of my mom’s good qualities, but organization was not one of them. I have eleven standard locations for my keys. Mom, on the other hand, dusted everything every Saturday morning like clockwork. She loved housekeeping, and her routines ensured every corner was immaculate.

If it went through the washing machine, Mom ironed it. Her grandmother took in ironing for a living and taught her how to iron. I slept on ironed sheets, our tablecloths were ironed, I blew my nose on ironed hankies, and, yes, I even wore ironed underwear. My father was a plumber, and he went to work every day in freshly cleaned and ironed clothing.

One day, in the summer before I left home for college, I walked through the kitchen. Mom was ironing. She summoned me to come to her. I had an inkling I was about to learn something I had no desire to know. I said, “No thank you,” and kept walking. Mom rarely raised her voice, but I experienced one of those rare occasions that day. “Young man, you stop right there.” I stopped, but I came no closer to her or her ironing board. Her dark brown eyes stared holes in my soul, and she emphatically thumped the ironing board with her forefinger.

That was the day I received my first lesson in how to properly iron pants and shirts. For the rest of the summer, I ironed not just my pants and shirts, but my brother’s and my father-the-plumber’s pants and shirts. Mom’s older son wasn’t about to be launched into the world looking like a ragamuffin.

In my four years of college, I tried my best to keep my skill with an iron a secret. For the first two years, I managed pretty well by doing my ironing while the rest of the guys in the dorm were partying. Eventually, word got out that I was better at ironing than the girls in the other three dorms. I didn’t like doing my own ironing, and now I was warding off guys who wanted to hire me.

My wife thanked Mom repeatedly for teaching me to iron. My mom was indeed special, and in this small way, she made me a good husband, in spite of my natural disorganization and my sloppy tendencies.

My mother died twenty years ago, and the entire family felt the enormity of our loss. It was, however, several years later that I realized just how far Mom’s reach extended. I took over responsibility for doing my father’s ironing. One day as I ironed his retired-plumber’s pants, my nephew’s girlfriend walked through Mom’s kitchen. She came over and watched me iron. After four or five minutes, she asked me to teach her to iron pants and shirts.

Uncle Ed was suddenly passing on the skill his mother taught him. This took place in the same kitchen, in the same location, where I learned this skill I had tried to avoid learning.

Incidentally, I never learned how to iron underwear. Mom spared me that burden. Maybe even she knew that some traditions aren’t worth passing on.

~Ed VanDeMark

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners