There I was in my socks, and my feet couldn’t stand still on the wood floor. From the other room, the iPod was cranking with the Tams singing “Be young, be foolish, but be happy.”
I wasn’t dancing.
I was ironing.
Yep, I was.
At 9 o’clock on Thursday night, I was ironing two pairs of all-cotton khakis. And when the Embers started in on “I love beach music,” I drifted back to my dorm room in the Oglethorpe House at the University of Georgia. With each spray of starch and swish of the steam iron, I was laughing about those knocks at my dorm room.
To some of those citified fellows on our hall, I’m sure they figured I was another bumpkin who fell off the turnip truck as it passed through Athens. But they soon learned I had some things they didn’t: an ironing board, a GE steam iron, spray starch and the knowhow to use them. So they started knocking on room 212’s door.
As I was growing up between sisters, Sandy and Sheila, Mother made sure I learned all the necessary housekeeping skills, too. When I got to Fort Campbell for Army boot camp, no one had to show me how to clean a toilet. And at 187 S. Ninth St., I learned how to use Comet and a toothbrush to scrub mildew out of the grout in the shower’s ceramic tile.
There were no vacuum cleaners in our Kentucky barracks, but I was a veteran of the clean-floor wars. After we vacuumed our family’s tile floors, Mother would walk through barefoot. If she felt one grain of sand, we didn’t just vacuum that one spot. No, ma’am. We re-vacuumed it all—again. She called it “re-licking the calf.” No, sir, when it came to spit-shining, Drill Sgt. Raymond Wells didn’t have anything on Marjorie NeSmith.
Mother was the same way about clothes. She wanted them clean and crisp. I remember her ironing our sheets and even Big Dink’s boxer shorts. One of her specialties was to dip shirts in starch water, roll them up and put them in the freezer before ironing. You won’t find much of that these days. And in 1966, you couldn’t find many, if any other, steam irons in our dormitory.
As my parents were loading their Buick to haul me to college, two of the last things Mother put in the trunk were from George Barnes’ H&H Appliance: a steam iron and an ironing board. One Friday night, a guy came with a wadded-up oxford-cloth Gant shirt. He was desperate. He wanted to look sharp on his date. In his Bronx accent, he begged, “Please, please could you iron this for me?” Looking back, I could have probably paid my way through that freshman year—ironing.
Fifty-one years later, I don’t do much ironing. But if the need arises, I’m ready to kick off my shoes. Just turn up the tunes.