A task some think tedious sparks a flood of family memories for a woman far away from home.
Posted in , Dec 13, 2011
Family was never far away in my hometown of Sunray, Texas. I had aunts, uncles, cousins and both sets of grandparents practically next door anytime I needed them.
Now it feels like they are a world away, I thought as I pulled the last few shirts out of my clothes dryer and laid them beside Mom’s old ironing board.
Hadn’t I gotten used to being on my own by now? You can’t get much further away from Texas than Alaska—and that’s where my husband and I lived for 22 years after we got married. Moving back home to Texas had seemed like a relief.
But Texas is one big state! My brother, Steve, was a 10-hour drive away. Sunray, where Mom and the rest of the family lived, was 10 hours in the opposite direction. I might as well have been in Alaska for how often I saw everyone.
I ran my hand over the warp in the surface of the ironing board. Once upon a time this board was the center of my world. Mom always seemed to be ironing when I was growing up.
I spent hours at her feet underneath this very board, cutting out paper dolls or coloring pictures, watching her feet shift back and forth as she worked.
I could almost smell the beef stew she had on the stove cooking in her kitchen. The herby broth mingled with the warm smell of freshly washed cotton and the steam of the iron.
“How are you all doing under there, Pam?” Mom would sometimes ask. I waved at her with my paper dolls.
There was no one to ask me how I was doing now, nobody hiding under my ironing board.
My house felt so empty compared to the house where I grew up. Relatives were always stopping by. I played with my cousins almost every day and spent weekends with one of my grandmothers.
“Bedtime is postponed for tonight,” I remembered Grannie announcing one weekend. “There’s an Elvis movie on.”
Grannie made chocolate milk and we snuggled on the couch. “Viva, Las Vegas!” we sang along with the King on TV.
On another weekend my other grandmother made ice cream for breakfast! “Doesn’t hurt to treat yourself once in a while,” she said.
I laid out the first shirt across the ironing board, laughing at the happy memory. It wasn’t just Elvis and ice cream that made me love my grandmothers. I loved them for the same reason I sat at Mom’s feet while she ironed: for the feeling of peace and joy that came from being with family.
We’ll make a visit to Sunray soon, I promised myself. Mom would call all the relatives to let them know I was coming. One day, I thought, but not today.
I pressed my iron to the fabric and ran it over the warp in the board’s surface. Pop!
It was a sound as familiar as my own voice: the metallic “pop” of the warp in the old board.
How many times in my youth had I heard that familiar metallic “pop” when Mom stood at this ironing board with the wash? Yet I’d forgotten all about it until this moment. Pop! I heard it again as I brought my iron back in the opposite direction.
The board popped away as I pressed the iron back and forth over the fresh-washed fabric. Each pop brought a memory: me lining up toy horses on the floor. My brother and me doing homework. Grannie telling me a story.
I heard Mom telling Steve to quit slamming that screen door, and smelled Grandma’s rolls fresh out of the oven. Each memory accompanied by the familiar music of the ironing board.
I can feel them all around me, I thought, closing my eyes and pressing down on the board. It’s like we’re all together again! I’d visit soon. Meanwhile an angel had shown me I could feel close to my family anytime.