Molly Fisk: It’s Curtains

Photo by via Flickr. (Creative Commons License)Photo by MommaPaints via Flickr. (Creative Commons License)

It’s probably time to confess I have a few long-standing addictions, and one of them is to ironing. I need to iron something at least once a decade or I don’t seem to be able to function. Last time it was a tablecloth for Christmas, 2006. I used my own iron, a blue and white hand-me-down whose internal spray mechanism works — unlike the one I had before, which was my mother’s proud purchase in 1961 and scorched everything it saw. I used my own ironing board, too, picked up off the street on trash day in Cambridge in the early ’80s.

The occasion yesterday was curtains. I’ve rented an office downtown, to spare my coaching clients having my cats sit on their laps and drool. It’s a sweet little room with many windows. I was so in love with the light that I didn’t really think about privacy, and it turns out the existing curtains aren’t adequate. Anyone over five foot three can see into my room from the lobby. Not the whole room, but still. What if I were teaching an Aikido move and sprang into view? What if a client needed to jump up and down, to blow off steam? We might scare people.

Over the course of a normal life, one usually has to make some curtains. For the six houses I’ve lived in as an adult, I’ve made eight pair, and two long ones to cover door-frames. I got them down from the shelf where they’d been sitting quietly, folded, for at least 15 years. The bag they were in had saved them from fading, so all I had to do was iron out the folds. But alas, I could not open my ironing board. The mechanism you hold down with your thumb to engage the legs, which is probably why it was on the street in the first place, had failed after 35 years. They just don’t make things like they used to.

Luckily my friend Susanna has an ironing board that’s almost always set up. She’s not an addict, but she might as well be, given her fondness for linen napkins and throwing parties. I drove my curtains over to her house, moved the damp linen onto a chair, and began.

That’s when I remembered I hate ironing. Even curtains, which are rectangular and have no sleeves. The folds were tenacious. The fabric caught on the iron’s cord, trying to topple everything. They looked perfect lying flat on the board, but the minute I moved to another section, what was hanging down showed more creases and I had to redo it. By the time Susanna and Blitzen got home from the dog park, I was a wreck and ten curtains hung innocently on their hangers pretending they’d never seen a fold in their lives.

Was it worth it? They look great in my office, which is an excellent outcome. I know my clients will thank me. But I think you can tell the moment has arrived.

I’m going to have to find a 12-step program for ironing.



Recommended For You

Molly Fisk: More Than Your John Hancock


Do me a favor, and write something by hand today, just to prove you haven’t forgotten how. Please? For me? A song lyric, a to-do list. A home-made prayer.

Molly Fisk: Benign Outcomes

3108339650_4cba05073b_zIf you practice assuming goodness, then no matter what the conversation ends up being about, you’re going to be strong enough to hear it. Your body isn’t going to be pre-primed for rage or tears. Your friends and family will feel better in your company.

Molly Fisk: Book. Cover. You Know the Drill.

15307831161_ee6e16c4b1_zThe strange thing about humans is how little one can deduce just by looking at them. Sure, there’s the obvious: tall, short, thin, stout, straight hair or curly, old or young. Skin color. Clothing style. Syntax. But even though our minds are usually making snap judgements and concocting stories about everyone we see, the real stories almost never show on the outside.

Join the conversation

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Penney April 6, 2016 at 1:12 am

    Thank you! What a delight to read a slice of my own life so exquisitely described! Just yesterday, while replacing a sagging curtain rod, I told my husband “I should wash these curtains. But then I’d have to iron them.” And I sit here staring at fabric I foolishly bought to make yet another set of curtains, the last sewing of curtains being ten yrs. ago, the same time the little tab that openned the my second-hand ironing board from the 70s failed to work. (My mother has since died. I inherited hers, older but better made). Several “vintage” (I’m old enough to use that word now when referring to my own “stuff”), home-sewn curtains are neatly folded in the closet, including some of my mother’s. I yearn for store bought curtains, but none in the Country Curtains catalog work in our tiny, funky house with odd measurements. And I’d still have to iron them. Several yrs. ago I gave up my grandmother’s iron that scorched. grandmothers.

  • Susanna Gaertner April 4, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    Patricia, I’m with you: I LOVE ironing despite the obsessive level of starching and ironing I had to do as a child: sheets, pillowcases, slips, nightgowns, undershirts, and father’s boxers, which then all had to be folded to the exact width of their respective columns in the drawer.
    My parents’ linen top sheets had large hand-embroidered initials which had to pop from the white-on-white background; a special terry towel was placed under the inverted initials to obtain the proper bas relief. This took rather a long time and much displeasure from my perfectionist mother. Ah, good times….
    And yet I still love to iron!

  • Julia April 3, 2016 at 6:51 pm

    My mother had a mangle but because it was easier than ironing, especially for those sheets and such. But she stopped mangling or ironing them when she began working, good for her. Me, I iron as little as possible–once a year?–which is also the one time a year I sew, something like curtains.

  • Linda White April 2, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Ha! The sturdy wooden ironing board I bought for $1 at Good Will in 1967 – the only ironing board I have ever owned, is well on its way to becoming a treasured family heirloom (“treasured” being a relative concept, of course.) It gets tarted up with a new ironing board cover from time to time, but it’s still the same, rickety old household friend, indestructible, of late 1920s or early 1930s vintage. Because you betcha: they don’t make e’m like that anymore.

  • Mickey April 2, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    My ex-deceased-mother-in-law was so into ironing she had a mangle! for her sheets, pillowcases and even, I think, her husband and son’s underwear! tidy whities! I’m not kidding! My ex needed, wanted, and I conceded, a clean cotton khaki coloured uniform for every day of the week during the summer, what did we do for winter, I don’t remember. Anyway, I ironed and ironed those clothes, pants with a knife sharp crease, shirts with nary a wrinkle, for him but NOT his underwear. Drew the line there. I loved your article and I’m still laughing. Now I remember why I hated ironing! Yes! However, glad to learn those curtains made it through the ironing turmoil and are hanging after 15 years exile. Thank you. We love you.

  • Molly Fisk April 2, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    You’re welcome, everybody, and maybe it’s time for all of us to revisit Tillie Olsen’s short story: I Stand Here Ironing.

  • Carol Hoorn April 2, 2016 at 3:26 pm

    I so identify with the ironing part. I don’t sew, except to mend and patch.Your humor and sense of irony(pun intended,but accidental always puts a smile on my face for the whole human race, at least till I view the latest political running for President news. Maybe I will join a 12 step program for that! Thanks and L.a.a.t.j.,Molly.

  • cheryl April 2, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Ironing for me as well brings back memories. My mom taught me when I was young enough to burn my arm in the process, however, we all had to do something, and I loved ironing. In those days, everything needed to be ironed!

    Dr. Pat- loved your post on this subject and!!


  • Molly Fisk April 2, 2016 at 10:44 am

    My grandmother ironed the sheets and pillow cases too, which I loved, especially in summer: it made them feel cooler for some reason. But I don’t love hotels much, so being reminded of them isn’t the thrill it can be for others. 😉

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen April 2, 2016 at 10:41 am

    Dear Molly,
    I LOVE ironing ( and table linens and entertaining).
    When I was a small child, the eldest of six, my mother taught
    me to iron, beginning with pillow cases and napkins. Who knew
    that I would be a virtuoso with the humble iron as my instrument?

    One of the many things I am looking forward to as I right size
    my life in the new country house is time for ironing. There are
    so few things in life as rewarding: wrinkled blouses, shirts,
    skirts and dresses starched then ironed with a steam iron to create
    fresh clothes for the week. Linens iron with the memories of the family lunch
    left untouched.

    I often wish that life were as simple as ironing. I could iron the
    wrinkles out of politics, poverty and and ignorance.
    Now this is a cabinet post I would accept:
    Secretary Of Ironing Out All the Wrinkles!

    Thank you, Molly, for sharing your wonderful posts with us.
    Dr Pat

  • Diane Dettmann April 2, 2016 at 9:54 am

    Ah, ironing, a long lost art. I still dabble in it every time I wash clothes. My new washer crushes wrinkles into everything. Thank goodness, the dryer tumbles most of the creases out, except for anything cotton. I always iron pillow cases. When my head snuggles down for the night, I feel like I’m sleeping in a hotel.