THEN, I found myself 19, married to an Air Force serviceman and standing before an ironing board, an iron and a dress uniform he had handed me. See, I’d been of the understanding that he’d be taking over where my mom left off – but here he stood looking at me.
What’s more he was looking at me expectantly as though I were to now “press” his uniform. It didn’t take me too long to figure out how to actually turn the iron on, thankfully the instructions were clear and printed on the front. I even poured water into the hole that was way too small, by the way. More water went on the beautiful blue pants than in the dumb old iron. He never saw any of that, though, he had left the room, assuming I knew what I was doing.
When he came back, I handed him the pants and smiled proudly. When he looked at them, he asked “Where are the creases?” Still proud and thinking I’d done something wonderful, I said, “I ironed them out!” Then he went on to let me in on a secret, the creases are supposed to be there. It took him about an hour to get them back in.
Over the next year I struggled with ironing his pants, sometimes he had creases, sometimes he didn’t – sometimes he’d have just one. They were very unpredictable, these creases.
Then, thanks be to the wardrobe gods, one weekend we were staying with my grandparents. My grandmother (who had two sons in addition to a husband) had been ironing longer than I’d been alive – so I was struck by an idea. The next morning when Michael and I were getting ready to go somewhere, I acted like I was running a little further behind than I was – knowing that one of the sweetest people in the world would ask if there was anything she could do to help.
She did. There was. And I watched.
Oh, the craftsmanship. Effortlessly, she folded the pants, lined up the temperamental creases and did her magic. I noticed, right off the bat, the difference in our techniques – her elbow wasn’t flailing, she wasn’t biting her lip, she wasn’t putting all her weight down on the ironing board. She was actually pressing rather than ironing and I watched her every deft move as I sipped my coffee.
I learned more just by watching someone who knew what they were doing than I ever did by thrashing around myself or by reading articles.
Ironically, I came to love ironing and now I insist on everyone in my family bringing me their clothes to press.
If there’s anything in your world that you’re unsure of – find someone who does it well and watch. A grandparent come highly, highly recommended.
Not long ago, I got to be on the other end of the scenario. I was making homemade doughnut holes and one of my daughters came in and perched on the counter – she said she wanted to know how to make them taste better than the bakery’s. Of course, she could have been somewhat sincere, but I also know that beating her sisters and father to the first warm doughnut holes wasn’t something she minded. Smart girl.
I liked her approach and made sure she got, not just the first warm doughnut hole, but the second and third as well.
Watch. Learn. Repeat.