I spent a good hour down in the laundry room, catching up on some ironing. In this wash ‘n wear world, it’s a chore one rarely does – we just put on the stuff that came out of the dryer. I didn’t intend to iron, but I had washed some sheets and one of the pillowcases had gotten stuck in the corner of a fitted sheet during the drying cycle. When I took it out, it was a balled-up, creased mess. So I plugged in the iron (we have a brand-new one), misted the pillowcase with water (a trick I learned from my mother), and pressed it nice and flat. It looked so pretty that I did the other three pillowcases. I stopped short of doing the sheets because ironing a king sheet becomes a major wrestling match, but I did iron two of John’s flannel shirts, five napkins and a bandana that happened to be within reach.
I love the way ironing smells. It’s clean and warm at the same time. Some enterprising perfumer should bottle the fragrance of good old-fashioned Faultless spray starch. There’s a couple of scents out there that try; they have names like “Laudromat” and “Clean Linen” but they lack “hot” and “sweet” notes – they’re too acrid. Nope, the scent rising out of a lightly starched napkin as you run the hot iron over it just can’t be beat.
It’s a smell that, oddly enough, reminds me of my late father. He used handkerchiefs for most of his life and he’d take the time to iron them with just a very little starch; he was a man of both precision and good manners and an ironed handkerchief was part of that. After he died, I asked my mother for some of his hankies and I carried one in my jacket pocket when I went on tour some years ago. If I was feeling a bit anxious or uncertain (not uncommon, since we were touring during the unsettling years of 2001-2002), I would hold that hanky inside my pocket and in my mind’s eye, see Dad stooped over the ironing board, pressing out his handkerchiefs foursquare, calm and focused on the task at hand.
Smelling that hot ironing smell brought it all back to me. It’s not exactly Proust and his madelines, but it works.