The satisfaction of making rumpled things smooth

Nobody irons anymore. Not the way we used to. Synthetic fibers and clothes dryers have all but pushed the iron out of the 21st-century home.

And that's a shame. Because of all the household chores, I dislike ironing the least. I actually enjoy it. I love it.

I like the metallic squawk of my ironing board when I release the catch that unfolds its legs. I like the hurried tick-tock sound of my ancient iron as it heats, and I like the soft, warm scent of damp cloth drying while moisture evaporates into tiny puffs of steam scooting out from the edges of my iron.

When I was too young to iron I remember watching, wide eyed, while my mother taught my older sister how to test the iron's heat. Pop your pointer finger into your mouth, wet it, and quickly touch it to the iron's surface. Sizzle! Hiss! I still get a kick out of it.

My sister and I were normal siblings. We fought like cats and dogs. We fought over who got to name the family pets, who got the last brownie, whose turn it was to do the dishes. But I can't recall a single time when we quibbled over ironing or while we were ironing. Maybe it's because there's something elemental about ironing - the act of applying a hot iron to a wrinkled, rumpled garment and smoothing it - that is soothing and satisfying.

I remember our farmhouse kitchen just after a summer rain. The air streaming through the window over the sink is fresh and clean, redolent of wild roses or lilacs or sweet peas. The wicker basket that cradled us as babies is piled with madras-plaid shirts, white blouses, and stirrup pants. My mother, my sister, and I are discussing the state of the world and the latest episode of "The Edge of Night." And always, one of us is ironing.

When I was a teenager, straight hair - and I mean straight hair - was the thing. It went so well with the miniskirts and ribbed sweaters of the '60s. I, alas, was blessed with waves, kinks, and cowlicks that could not, would not, be combed straight. But I learned how to lay my mutinous locks on the ironing board, cover them with a thin cloth, and iron them smooth and straight. Sort of. It wasn't perfect, but it was an economical way to make a fashion statement. And it certainly was convenient. Every morning I'd wash my face, brush my teeth, and iron my hair.

Our refrigerator was never without a chunk of aged cheddar. It came from a country store where pie-shaped wedges were cut from a round at least 18 inches across and eight inches thick. It made glorious grilled-cheese sandwiches. And the quickest, cleanest, most efficient way to grill them is to wrap them in foil and iron them.

These days my grilled sandwiches are done on top of the stove, and I no longer feel the need to straighten my hair. My sister and I haven't fought over chores, pets, or brownies for years. But still, of all the household chores, I dislike ironing the least. I actually enjoy it. I love it.

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