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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Finding Joy in August

There is always something to be thankful for, and I am so thankful that my job in life is not one that requires me to roof a house in August. It seems to me there's no way you could survive in this heat. It is hard to believe that I lived without air conditioning growing up in Shreveport, Louisiana.
In those days we did a lot more ironing than we do today. That was such a hot job. Ironing involved so much of your time--spray starch hadn't been invented, and the standard procedure in our household went something like this: Take a heat-proof basin for holding your starch. Find the box of Faultless and read directions carefully. Mix the correct amount of starch with a small amount of cold water; pour in basin. Add boiling water as directly, being careful not to splash any on yourself, and stir quickly. It became a thick, opaque mixture, and if you had watched your Mama often enough, you learned to judge just how much hot water got you the right consistency. You had to let the mixture cool down enough to put your hands in it, because you had to dip your clean blouses, pillow cases, tablecloths, etc, in this slimy stuff, and then squeeze as much out as you could. After you had all that finished, then you took the starched clothes to the clothesline (banned in a lot of communities these days) and hang the clothes out to dry.
Of course, that wasn't the end of the job, either. When your garments were dry, you brought them back inside and found the sprinkler bottle. This, in my household, was a clean empty ketchup bottle filled with water. A cork stopper with a sprinkler cap was poked in the open end. (Hard item to find these days). You then sprinkled each stiff item of clothes and rolled it up. When all were damp, you put all the rolls in an old, clean pillow case, and that went in the refrigerator overnight. This is why most housewives washed on Mondays and ironed on Tuesdays. Through osmosis, I suppose, every piece to be ironed would be uniformly damp, and the iron fairly glided over the fabric. Some of Mama's blouses looked pretty enough to be framed when she finished ironing. However, she was always so tired afterwards. I know she was glad when my sisters and I could be trusted with a hot iron, so we could pitch in and help.
As hot as she was, ironing in a home without air conditioning, Mama often told me how her mother scrubbed the household laundry on a metal and wood scrub board and then took a stick and lowered each piece down into a black cast iron pot, bubbling with clean water. She poked them around until she judged they were clean; then, using the stick she lifted the steaming laundry into a cold pot of clean water. Imagine doing that in August. Every Monday. With little kids running around, about to give you a heart attack coming close to the big, hot pot. We really have nothing to complain about, when it comes down to it. Guess, I'll close, and go adjust the air conditioner. If Grandmama could do laundry in August in 90 degree weather, I should be able to stand 78!
There is joy in August.


Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Great essay about ironing and the good old days. I'm also grateful I don't have to roof a house on these hot August days.

I enjoyed your poetry reading at "Coffee with the Poets."

Glenda said...

You make me ashamed, Carole, that I complain about the heat almost every day. But I grew up in southwest GA and boy, was it hot there. I ironed my brothers' jeans and shirts when I was old enough to handle the iron.
I remember the sprinkler and the starch. And I remember the heat!
But as much as I hated the heat I could not, in good conscious, complain when my brothers and my father worked all day long outside in the hot sun. I was thankful I was a girl and was not expected to work outside on the farm.
You brought back lots of memories with this post.

Joan Ellen Gage said...

Oh, my! Ironing in the South was tedious. I remember ironing in the North. It wasn't quite as bad. Then there were the clothes that froze on the line!
It is nice to see you back writing your blog.