My mother prides herself on her ironing prowess and that just tickles me. Not tickles me as in poking fun, but tickles me as in I find it touching.

I remember grandmother washing clothes in that pink and white washing machine, running them through the wringer a time or two to get out the excess water, then hanging them on the line to dry. There’s nothing that smells as good to me as sheets dried in sunshine. She put granddaddy’s khaki pants on stretcher bar contraptions, but they still needed ironing, so she’d bring them in, sprinkle them with water, roll them up, and put them in the back of the refrigerator to wait till she had time to press them.

Sometimes I think I got this feminist thing all mixed-up. At least parts of it. Maybe it was nice when there was a division of duties, of chores, of responsibilities. When the woman took care of everything inside and just outside the walls of the house while the man took care of everything beyond that. Maybe it was easier somehow when she didn’t feel the need to assume responsibility for every single thing.

Maybe i’m kidding myself.

The women in my family – my mother and her mother – took pride in the cooking and ironing and sewing they did, in the flowers they planted from seeds and cuttings swapped with friends, in the tables they set and the music they made. Maybe – and this may be the most important maybe of all – maybe it was enough that they felt that pride themselves, that they didn’t look outside and want, expect, demand others take pride in their accomplishments and declare them worthy. Self-satisfaction. Maybe that was plenty.

I’m doing this project, recreating in stitch some 167 drawings made by my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy. The cloth was puckering up a little bit, so a friend suggested I lightly starch the fabric – which I did yesterday, and it has made a world of difference in the way the cloth looks fresher, prouder. Got me remembering, too.

Ironing’ll do that.