The ironing ages

I iron every week, whether I want to or not, like brushing my teeth every day or going to the grocery store. It is something I need to do, so I do it. But ironing allows time for reflection.

As the years go by, sizes have certainly changed. Gone are the toddler overalls that took a few sweeps of the iron. Now cargo pants cover the board. Clothes that are no longer sweet and soft take on new styles and stronger colors. Life is different. Soft pajama-like material has been transformed into durable and strong fiber, like the boys themselves. A worn knee reminds me of the rough-and-tumble days these pants and boys go through. Changing shirt sizes and colors show the advance of time. Gone are the vehicle and animal motifs. The boys, soon to be men, are drawn to neon-colored items that shock me with their size.

There is no turning back. Time can be measured on the calendar or clock, but in moments of solitude, as the iron presses down, I remember the boys smaller, and I wonder, "What happened between those much-smaller-clothes times and now?"

I ponder the age-old question of mothers everywhere: "Where has the time gone?" Time doesn't seem to pass swiftly as you live each day, but somehow we find ourselves here.

The more experienced mothers at the supermarket who smiled knowingly as I shopped while juggling small children will be satisfied to know that they were right: The growing-up of children does go very quickly. I'd like to jump on the hands of time and hold them in place. At the same time, though, I am eager to continue on the path we've taken.

Life has become better as the children have grown. We have a real relationship that involves our interacting. I am no longer needed to get them dressed or tie their shoes, but they still need things best provided by a mother. We've developed a rapport: It's not always easy, but it's certainly better than when they were younger. I am not only a caretaker, but also a confidante, a source of knowledge, a friend.

The clothes are bigger, but so are our worlds. We've both expanded the boundaries of our lives to include school and new activities. The larger clothes take the boys off on their own. The outer sturdiness is useful: It's armor, I like to think, as I continue to iron. Protect this child as he goes out to learn, and send him home safely. I put hope in the ironing as I wish them well on the path of growing up.

An amazing thing about clothes is that they can be worn frequently throughout the summer and then, suddenly, one day the pants are inches off the floor or can't be buttoned. Surely my child did not change overnight, but how does this metamorphosis happen without my realizing it?

Other times, a shirt will be pulled out of a drawer, and although it was in style just last week, the shirt is suddenly deemed "not quite right." Time is marching on, and the clothes reflect these changes.

At some point – sooner than I would like – the mountains of clothes and boys will move out and on. I will reach back for the memories but still recognize that there are good and not-so-good things at every stage. Life is a journey, and although we know the path and think we know something about the places we will visit, something about each port of call surprises us.

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