Like most moms, I have some very clear memories of firsts with my kids. First giggle, first wail from Santa’s lap, first haircut with with craft scissors behind closed doors. I remember first words and their first full sentences, too. My son’s was: “Bonk my bean,” which was his way of telling me as he stood up rubbing his little blond noggin that he had hit his head when he took that tumble outside the bathroom door.
My daughter’s first sentence was: “No. Guess again.” That was her response when we were trying to decipher the words she had said just prior to that. We were all sitting together for dinner at our favorite Friday night restaurant and I was giving her the chance to tell us what she wanted to eat. She added a flourish as she said it. Her little head tilt was punctuated with a closed-mouth grin that communicated smugly: “I’m trying to be patient but please try to keep up.” There is nothing like being reminded that your child is smarter than you are. Of course, this is also the same kid who had clearly shouted “Cheesburger!” to the teller at the bank’s drive-up window weeks earlier.
Along the way of language development, kids all go through a fairly lengthy “What’s that?” phase, too. By the time my son was six, I thought he was beyond that but the night he saw our ironing board set up in the kitchen, the age-old question popped up again. In six years, he had never seen an ironing board. There’s a reason. We kept it buried, out of the way, at the back of the closet. It served best as a low-rent spider highrise and a trellis for their handiwork. I can assure you there was never any pressing of permanent press fabrics at our house. The night of the ironing board’s magical appearance, my husband had set it up to plaster a patch on his jeans.
I was reminded of this story when I was reading a post from a young blogger I follow. I’m not sure where she lives or exactly how old she is but she lives on a farm and has told readers she’s home-schooled. I love her posts. You can find her at A Farm Girls Life on WordPress.com.
She’s fresh, authentic and artsy and hasn’t yet had any writing coaches beat the joy of writing out of her. She shares posts on farm life, her own creativity and reblogs artistic how-to’s. She also shares lots and lots of pictures of baby farm animals, fuzzy and furry. Farm Girl recently interviewed her grandmother about the good ole days of farm life and her grandmother shared some memories about how she handled her daily chores, including the ironing.
Like Farm Girl’s grandmother, my mom kept rolled up sheets and pillowcases in a plastic bag until they could be ironed, revived first with a sprinkle of water from an old bottle with a cork-base top. Farm Girl said her grandmother warned you couldn’t let clean laundry sit like that too long or things would get moldy. My mom avoided that problem by putting the bag in the fridge.
Mom not only had an iron, she had an ironer, a huge, industrial-looking contraption that resided in our basement. It had a giant, padded cylinder where wrinkly things went to be squashed into submission. A huge press above it was operated by a foot pedal. The press clamped down on the cylinder and the whole thing sent out a distinctive long hiss of steam I can still hear as part of the comforting rhythms of my childhood.
Won’t my mom and Farm Girl’s g-maw be surprised to know that these days, ironing is a competitive sport? And it’s not just any sport; it’s an extreme sport to boot. If you can’t grasp the distinction, here’s the classic definition: extreme sports activities are perceived as having a high level of danger. In addition, the definition also states these activities often involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion and highly specialized gear. What???
You may already be envisioning Donna Reed and June Clever standing side by side in a canary yellow kitchen, preparing to go shirt-to-shirt in a challenging iron-off. Can you picture them now at extra tall boards, speed ironing their way through a month’s worth of 50’s family laundry and wearing their highly specialized gear (a pear necklace, of course)? Well, stop!
Extreme ironing does not take place in the kitchen. “EI,” as it is known, takes place underwater, in caves and on horseback. It happens on water skis, on the roof of a moving car and when rappelling down a mountain face. EI sites and photos are all over the web, describing extreme ironing as an outdoor sport that combines the danger and excitement of an extreme sport with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt. What a great combination. EI athletes make a point of getting caught in the act when skydiving, bungee jumping and in roaring whitewater.
The popular story says that the sport was born in Leicester, England, in 1997 when a regular guy named Phil Shaw came home from a rough day and faced a lot of chores, including his ironing. He preferred to go rock climbing instead but decided to combine the two activities and Bam! a new extreme sport was launched. Today there are official rules and regs, governing bodies and world championships. Organizations such as the Extreme Ironing Bureau and Extreme Ironing International help promote the sport and document the record setting. Of course there is a Facebook presence and merchandise, too: t-shirts, decals and coffee mugs. A used 2009 EI calendar lists for $127.40 on Amazon. A new one will cost you $600-plus.
I haven’t dug deep enough yet to find out exactly what kind of job those irons do while plummeting to Earth from 12,000 feet or while jouncing down a mountainside but I do know this: water and electricity don’t mix. I would never recommend any EI water sports. It is all enough for me to know that my instincts were correct in keeping that ironing board stashed in the closet. This sport proves my theory. Ironing can be hazardous to your health.