Watching Mom iron my pants is like watching an artist at work
To watch Mom iron is to watch a carpenter join pieces of wood into something that ill be handed down, parent to child, for generations. It is watching an artist imbue blank canvas with timelessness. It is watching a craftsman at her trade, doing a thing I will never be able to do.
It is almost seeing art done.
She shoulders me aside – amused by my fumbled attempt to press a pair of pants – and takes the iron in hand. Suddenly it is endowed with power, supernatural, no longer inanimate but a living thing. She wields it as if it weighed nothing. She never hesitates.
The pants are splayed on the ironing board, impossible wrinkles over every square inch. They couldn’t be straightened. The thought of even trying leaves me giddy.
Mom sets to work.
“It’s important that you stretch the pants over the board,” she says, her voice stretched too, as she pulls the pants over the board’s tapered snout and spreads them flat. She sprays starch over them, then presses with the iron. It plows into the wrinkles, smoothing them. Steam rises from the fabric as the iron is drawn back, and a hot, electric smell fills the kitchen.
She gets to the pocket and pulls the pants away from the board, grabs the pocket the way one would handle an unruly child, and spreads it flat. “Always iron the pockets before you iron the outside. If you don’t, you’ll leave an imprint of the pocket on the outside.”
I wonder why I never noticed imprints of pockets on my bachelor friends’ pants. Do they know?
She shows me how it happens and, just as she explained, the imprint is there. She irons the pockets steaming flat, then flips the pants over and irons the outside. No imprint. Maybe I would’ve discovered that for myself. Maybe not.
Then she starts on the legs. She holds the pants vertically, matches the seams at the bottom. “Line these up as closely as possible,” says she, eyeballing her work as if she were about to cleave a gemstone. “They have to be matched just right or the crease won’t come out the way it’s supposed to.” I believe her. But I don’t see how she’ll manage it.
The legs are twisted beyond hope. She lays them on the board, lifts the top leg and lets it dangle over the front; she sets upon the bottom leg. Starch and steam. She moves the iron at impossible angles, finds all the lines, smoothes them under heat and pressure into a flat plane. Up the leg, over the seam and down the other side. The pants are beginning to look like pants, the improbably magically becoming possible.
She pulls the dangled leg, lays it flat against the other, then goes to work on it, too, with baffling certainty, pushing the iron over the cloth, making it presentable. She puts a crease in this leg, and it is a match with the other.
The whole business is flipped over and she starts from the opposite side, doing away with the last bit of disorder. Then she peels the pants from the board, holds them up for final inspection, slides the legs carefully through a hanger and hands them to me.
“That’s how you iron a pair of pants.”
I hang them in the closet, careful that they don’t touch the other clothes there. I’m not sure I want to put them on. They look too nice to wear.
I’ll never get the hang of it.
Mom has left the ironing board in the kitchen, and I, the understudy to some Florentine realist, am only too happy to do the easy part, to put away the artist’s easel.
This column was originally published in the Playground Daily News in the early 1980s and is used with permission.
About the author:
Del Stone Jr. is a professional fiction writer. He is known primarily for his work in the contemporary dark fiction field, but has also published science fiction and contemporary fantasy. Stone’s stories, poetry and scripts have appeared in publications such as Amazing Stories, Eldritch Tales, and Bantam-Spectra’s Full Spectrum. His short fiction has been published in The Year’s Best Horror Stories XXII; Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine; the Pocket Books anthology More Phobias; the Barnes & Noble anthologies 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories, Horrors! 365 Scary Stories, and 100 Astounding Little Alien Stories; the HWA anthology Psychos; and other short fiction venues, like Blood Muse, Live Without a Net, Zombiesque and Sex Macabre. Stone’s comic book debut was in the Clive Barker series of books, Hellraiser, published by Marvel/Epic and reprinted in The Best of Hellraiser anthology. He has also published stories in Penthouse Comix, and worked with artist Dave Dorman on many projects, including the illustrated novella “Roadkill,” a short story for the Andrew Vachss anthology Underground from Dark Horse, an ashcan titled “December” for Hero Illustrated, and several of Dorman’s Wasted Lands novellas and comics, such as Rail from Image and “The Uninvited.” Stone’s novel, Dead Heat, won the 1996 International Horror Guild’s award for best first novel and was a runner-up for the Bram Stoker Award. Stone has also been a finalist for the IHG award for short fiction, the British Fantasy Award for best novella, and a semifinalist for the Nebula and Writers of the Future awards. His stories have appeared in anthologies that have won the Bram Stoker Award and the World Fantasy Award. Two of his works were optioned for film, the novella “Black Tide” and short story “Crisis Line.”
Stone recently retired after a 41-year career in journalism. He won numerous awards for his work, and in 1986 was named Florida’s best columnist in his circulation division by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors. In 2001 he received an honorable mention from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association for his essay “When Freedom of Speech Ends” and in 2003 he was voted Best of the Best in the category of columnists by Emerald Coast Magazine. He participated in book signings and awareness campaigns, and was a guest on local television and radio programs.
As an addendum, Stone is single, kills tomatoes and morning glories with ruthless efficiency, once tied the stem of a cocktail cherry in a knot with his tongue, and carries a permanent scar on his chest after having been shot with a paintball gun. He’s in his 60s as of this writing but doesn’t look a day over 94.
Contact Del at [email protected]. He is also on Facebook, twitter, Pinterest, tumblr, TikTok, Ello and Instagram. Visit his website at delstonejr.com .