The beige plaid shirt looked perfectly innocent waiting on the rack in the clothing store. The cotton fabric felt soft in my hands, and I thought the color would look good on my husband, so I bought it for him. Later that day, Duane tried it on for size and murmured, "Mm, hmm," which is his normal level of excitement for receiving any gift of apparel. His murmur of thanks was enough for me. I knew my husband well after our many years together, and I knew he loved cotton shirts. This shirt, however, turned out to be unlike any he'd ever owned.
Ironing has always been my specialty, but I soon discovered that this cotton shirt possessed a stubborn streak. I used full steam on my iron and the highest possible heat setting, but the shirt clung to wrinkles with amazing tenacity. The fabric never looked crisp after ironing, either, just limply subdued.
Duane clearly loved the shirt, though. Each time I hung it freshly pressed in his closet, he would wear it the very next day. With our large family, we launder often, and in very short order the shirt would be hovering in my ironing pile again, preparing to battle the steam-breathing dragon.
I once mentioned to Duane how challenging the shirt was to press, and he murmured, "Mm, hmm," which meant that he either appreciated my efforts or didn't understand the direction of my hint. Ah, well. He loved the shirt and left it in the laundry room for days (once even for two weeks) before I ironed it. But then Duane would do some sweet thing for me, and I would feel guilty and once again wage battle with the shirt and iron.
After a couple of years, the fabric began to show wear. With a quickened heartbeat, I realized that Duane would soon have to retire his favorite shirt. Knowing its days were numbered, I tried not to resent its last attempts to outwit my iron. One day soon after this, I ironed the shirt and hung it in our closet. The next morning, Duane slipped it on as usual and wore it to work. I washed on the following day and in a fit of inspiration caught up on my ironing for the week.
"Now, Duane," I said that night, as I hung the infamous garment in his closet. "I know you love this shirt, but you just wore it on Monday, and it is difficult to iron, so maybe you could wait a few days before you wear it again?"
Duane pulled the shirt out of his closet and frowned at it. "I don't like this shirt. I never have. I just wear it to get it out of the closet, so I don't have to look at it every morning."
"Ahh." I stood there for a minute, dumbfounded, then stripped the shirt from the hanger. It was a shame I'd just ironed it, but what must be, must be. I crumpled it into a ball and exclaimed, "Then you shall never have to see this shirt again!" And with that, I tossed the old warrior into the rag pile, where it has resided ever since, clinging happily to its wrinkles.
I have no regrets, though, when I look back on my many hours of ironing this shirt; for after 25 years of marriage, I discovered something new about my husband. He doesn't like beige plaid shirts, but he will wear one for years if he thinks it pleases me.