a tribute to my mom…ironing

Ironing board

Image via Wikipedia

Do you iron what you wear? With drycleaners popping up on every corner, and the grunge look being in fashion, and ripped jeans looking cool, why bother to get the wrinkles out of everyday wear? I’ve got a small stack of shirts and jeans, both mine and my husbands, sitting atop the dryer waiting to be ironed. Sometimes I pull an item or 2 from the pile and give it a quick press when I’m in a hurry to wear it then and there. But most of the items have been patiently waiting their turn, collecting dust. Literally. It’s kind of an “out of sight, out of mind” thing.

When “the mood” hits me, I’ll gather the load of folded, by now very wrinkled items in my arms, bring them upstairs in front of the TV, and plop them down on a chair. Then I’ll ask my hubby to drag the ironing board up as well. He’ll usually go the whole “nine yards,” situating it in its usual spot, plug an extension cord into the nearby wall socket, plug the iron into that, and voila! I’m good to go. I’ll find a good show to watch on TV, and start ironing away. Once I get started, I can hardly wait to see the pile of clothes get smaller. It’s like a competition with myself, but also against the clothes. Will I get through all of them, or will I get pooped first?

Toritama produces 15% of the Brazilian jeans

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Because my husband’s clothes are larger per square inch than mine, ironing them seems to take twice as long. But I muddle through, knowing I’m being a good, no great, wife! Truthfully, I think he’d probably wear his clothes wrinkled. In fact, he’s tried that. Upon closer inspection I’ll give him the thumbs up, or thumbs down. The older I get, sometimes I’ll just squint and give a quick thumbs up.

How my mom ever managed to work for years as a laundress for a Catholic orphanage, I’ll never know. She spent 8 hours standing on her feet, ironing, ironing, ironing. In between that she’d put loads of wash on, and then hang them out to dry. She dealt with pieces of clothing that ran the gamut from kids’ play clothes to nuns’ habits, including their head gear. Starching items was a biggie in those days. For those not familiar with that term, select types of clothing were doused in thick liquid, that really seemed like glue. I don’t remember if it was then lightly rinsed, or just wrung out and hung to dry. What puzzles me to this day is how my mom managed to get the nuns’ heavy, black, woolen uniforms, and head pieces, looking like they’d been drycleaned? She should have gotten an award or something. I imagine her pay was even paltry, given the orphanage was run on a dime and lots of prayers.

Needless to say my mom taught my siblings and me to iron correctly. On a shirt or blouse, we learned to iron the collar first, then the upper neck area along the back, then each sleeve, then the front of one side, moving around the back of the shirt or blouse, to the remaining front. On a pair of slacks, we would iron the front, then the back, then fold the legs together so that we could iron one side at a time, being certain to iron the inside of each leg as well. It was expected that when we opened the pants up again, there would be creases down the fronts of each leg.

Image by me. Larger version available on Flickr.

Image via Wikipedia

Talk about learning to iron as if we were artists, or scientists. My mom took great pride in not only mastering the technique, but having each item of clothing looking a thousand times better than when she got it. And that skirt or overall may have passed through her hands a gazillion times! No matter, my mom washed it, dried it, and ironed it as if for the very first time…and never complained. Even when she developed varicose veins as a result of working barefoot on concrete floors. The sight of her calves marred by streaks of blue bumps, were a constant reminder to me of how my mom sacrificed her own comfort to keep us kids fed, and clothed, with a roof over our heads.

Being widowed at such a young age, 30, my mom was immensely grateful to be working. And the Maryknoll nuns were like guardian angels always hovering to make certain we had enough food and clothing, even if both were surplus from the orphanage’s own stockpile.

So yes I still iron, however minimally, in memory of my mom who made the task monumentally important. Such a small, everyday occurrence, that for her meant all the world.

i try not to underestimate the small…for they are usually larger than they seem…hugmamma.  

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former homeless songwriter, chris scott’s story

Homeless Lessons Learned was produced by Andrew Diffee, a talented young college student majoring in videography. While looking for subject matter for a required video production assignment, Andrew and I crossed paths outside The Contributor office downtown. Intrigued by the details of my living situation, and my positive attitude and outlook in the midst of it all, he decided to tell my story. We arranged a shooting date on a Sunday afternoon, and armed with a film crew and a pizza, production began.

I have lived and survived the last 18 months in the woods on the back side of Fort Negley (coincidently named after General James Scott Negley). That makes me a veteran with an honorable discharge who has lived on a former military installation all while trying to establish himself in a new city. But on December 3rd, 2010, after a long, hard “tour of duty,” I finally moved into an apartment. (Selling The Contributor had a lot to do with that.)

Life is different when you have a roof over your head and a safe place to go. For me, that has become an achievement and a reality. But for so many of my dear brothers, sisters and friends, it is not within their reach at this point in time. I know what they are going through every night, night after night, with no place to go, no place to be. Wherever they try to lay their heads, they end up being either ticketed or incarcerated for trespassing.

During the entire 18 months I camped on that hill, I was never ticketed or jailed for trespassing. I did, however, have everything I own dragged down the hill and thrown in the back of a garbage truck–twice! (It’s much easier the second time.) I made it through Nashville‘s coldest winter in 30 years in a tent I built myself. I survived the flood of 2010 and didn’t lose one thing to the rising waters. I did whatever I had to do to make it happen, help my fellow-man, and survive. How I did it and what I learned over that period of time is the focus of Homeless Lessons Learned.

Armed with a plan to alleviate the plight of my brothers and sisters on the street, those who attend the screening will learn about ways they can get involved. I believe that 2011 is going to be a year of growth and change for a lot of folks. Things are going to get better. I have seen so much happen in 2010 and I know that we’re just getting warmed up. Things can’t stay the way they are. Justice must prevail for everyone. We are Americans! And more importantly, we’re family. Together we’re stronger–as individuals as a community, and as a nation.

a man with a story to tell…of compassion… for all…hugmamma.

Note: A public screening of Homeless Lessons Learned, a 45-minute documentary, was held on 1/12/11 at Nashville’s Downtown Presbyterian Church (DPC).

redding ct, like the maui of old

When someone learns that I’m from Maui, she always exclaims “Oh, don’t you miss it? Why’d you ever leave?” I take a breath, preparing to answer what I truly feel in my heart.

Maui as it is today, even as it was 15 years ago, is no longer the island of my childhood. As with the neighboring  islands, in fact as with other popular destinations, tourism has transformed what was a less populous, less commercial, off-the-beaten-track locale into a mecca for the rich and famous, and even the not so rich and famous. Mind you, I came to terms with the drastic change some time ago. On one of my last trips to Maui, years ago, it was apparent that visitors to the island provided a livelihood for the majority of the locals. So I wasn’t about to admonish them as co-conspirators in the “ruination” of Maui, while I left to make my living and home elsewhere.

Before my daughter was born, actually before she was even a possibility, I was returning home to Long Island, New York from a business trip to Kansas City. Seated next to me on the flight was an attractive man dressed in cords and a sweater, appearing very much like a New Englander. Striking up a conversation, we spoke of many things.  One of the topics was where we resided. I explained that while my husband and I lived in Westbury, I wanted to move somewhere reminiscent of my birthplace, Maui. I desired the same small town atmosphere, where neighbors knew each other, where children played together, where there were town parades, fairs, picnics. Without hesitation, my traveling companion blurted “Redding, Connecticut! You should move to Redding, Connecticut!” 

I’d never heard of the town, so my new friend proceeded to describe it as a small, rural community isolated from the hubbub of surrounding towns by vast acres of pristine land, much of which belonged to the town ensuring that they would never be commercially developed. He went on to explain that to enter Redding, one either drove alongside reservoirs which supplied water to the town, or along country roads shaded by trees. The idyllic picture seemed lifted from a postcard. Giving me the name of the realtor who helped find this New York City writer a getaway home, I was convinced that my husband and I needed to make the 75 mile trip north of NYC, in search of Redding.

We got more than we bargained for, as a result of our hunt for a new home. Nearly bereft of hope that we’d be parents someday, Redding was the answer to our prayer. After 16 years of marriage, our daughter was born. The first 11 years of her life were spent in an oasis within the midst of suburban Connecticut. Watching her in those early years was like stepping back in time, into my own childhood Paradise. 

Topographically different, Redding had rolling hills, and a man-made lake in which to swim; Maui boasted a dormant volcano, and ocean waves upon which to surf. Redding’s landscape was dotted with sugar maple trees, whose leaves were seasonally transformed into the colors of the setting sun. So unlike Maui’s tropical palms swaying gently in the evening breezes, as the glassy Pacific waters below mirrored the shining  moon overhead.

In spite of their disparities, the people of both Redding and Maui were alike in their hospitality toward newcomers, and the friendliness within their communities. Schools were small, so while students didn’t know everyone personally, they were aware of everyone through friends or others. Children looked forward to trick-or-treating, door-to-door.  School plays were exciting affairs, as were school dances, and basketball games. Sleepovers were commonplace, as were play-dates and church picnics. Dads coached sports teams and led the Boy Scouts; moms were Girl Scout leaders and drove carpools. Children caught buses to school, or walked. Neighbors helped one another; they prepared meals for a family with a cancer-stricken mom; they cared for children when parents were tending to emergencies; they consoled those who laid loved ones to rest.

My daughter’s memories of an idyllic childhood in Redding  are just that, treasured remembrances. And so it is with the Maui of my youth. So when I’m asked “Wouldn’t you want to live there now?” I always reply,  “The Maui where I grew up is in my heart; it’s with me, wherever I am.” I know my daughter feels similarly about Redding, Connecticut, the town she still calls her home, though she’s not lived there for 13 years.

“home is where your heart is,” truly…hugmamma.