Apron Nostalgia

Clump # 30:  Throw out insulation blanket from old hot water heater.

We finally replaced our old hot water heater.  No more flirting with disaster.  The plumber who did the work told us to get rid of the insulation we had wrapped around it, as it was a fire hazard.  Okay, water and fire disasters averted.  Not too exciting, but aren’t we getting proactive!


Now for prettier pictures.  My mother lives in a retirement community in Lancaster County, PA, an area home to many Amish and Mennonite people.  I took this photo in the town of Strasburg earlier this year when the trees there looked like garlands of pink popcorn balls strung over the street.


Right after snapping the above shot, I heard the sound of horse hooves and lowered my camera to catch an Amish horse and buggy traveling through.


On a more recent visit, I couldn’t find my mom in her room or in any of the common areas. One of the aides told me, “She’s upstairs — the twins are here with their aprons.”  Huh??  I went upstairs to find her in a group of residents listening to, indeed, two identical Mennonite ladies, dressed the same, and passing around a collection of aprons.

Now, you might think a presentation on aprons would not be very interesting, but, in this case, you would be wrong!  As I sat down next to my mom, one twin was pointing out the “chicken scratch stitch” on the bottom of a gingham apron, a tactile and visual treat.  The twins regaled us with aprons of all varieties: fancy, see-through voile ones worn over navy blue dresses by women serving as waitresses at wedding receptions that the bride’s mother would make (not sure whether this is still done); aprons made from feed bags, surprisingly pretty, floral fabrics; a “slop apron,” long, plain, and off-white, to be worn over your “good apron,” and so many more.  A fishing apron had a hand towel sewn on one side for wiping your hands after handling the slimy fish, and a pocket on the other side.  I asked what the pocket was for. “Your hankie,” a twin replied matter-of-factly.  Of course.

The twins were so good-natured, patient and calm.  I could have listened to them forever, and really just wanted to go home with them to what I imagined to be their simpler, kinder world.  I asked a staff member for more information about them the next time I visited and learned that they live together, are known for their beautiful gardens, and that the first twin to wake up in the morning chooses what to wear for both.  Someone else remarked, “You get the feeling that never a cross word is exchanged between them.”


After passing around an apron made for hanging out laundry, with a pocket for storing clothespins, they read the following rules:


IRONED???????  There it was again.  And all the laundry-hanging rules in past-tense.

I am certainly not making the case for going back to more time-intensive housework, when a woman’s domain was solely in the home.  Apron strings: the ties that bind, in more ways than one.

But today, as women’s roles expand and technology and information explode, I can’t help hankering for a time of hankies, hand sewing, and horses.  And, maybe at the bottom of it all, feeling nostalgic for the days when my mom was a force in this world, more Julia Child than Donna Reed, decked out in her apron.

Tear Down This Wall!

Clump #29:  Take down the ironing board as a permanent fixture.

“Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere.  Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share.”   –Barney The Purple Dinosaur


Quite a while ago, here, I set the goal of clearing out my bedroom as a statement of self-worth.  Historically, I’ve given cleaning priority to public areas that guests might see (anyone from dear friends to unknown repairmen). Meanwhile, I neglect the rooms where I and my husband, dearest person of all, spend the most time.  A force of instinct, not intention, but up-side down, indeed.  Time to align intention with action.

Through previous clumping, most of the room is staying clear, and with less clutter it’s easier to keep clean. (…Remarkable.)  However, we have an ironing board in our bedroom that never, ever gets Put Away.  Let me rephrase that: I never, ever Put it Away.  This might not seem like a big deal, but it has now become our own Berlin Wall separating East and West Germany. *  On one side is my newly-clear Zen space; on the other is the flotsam and jetsam of a previous, unresolved clearing-of-public-area-of-the-house effort.  Lots of shoes and boots and other dreadful, stubborn stuff.  More like a toxic oil spill!

Keeping the ironing board out is also a subliminal message saying I am never finished with ironing.  Yes, when rushing to get something pressed, it’s a lot easier to have the board right at hand, but the psychic toll is too high.  Putting the ironing board away declares a clear and definite end-of-task.

Wow … I can’t believe I’m posting this photo to the world.  The shame!!


My husband and I were on a plane recently and he was reading the book, Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar … Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein.  His shoulders were shaking from laughing silently, so he handed over the following story for me to read.


“On a transatlantic flight, a plane passes through a severe storm.  The turbulence is awful, and things go from bad to worse when one wing is struck by lightening.

One woman in particular loses it.  She stands up in the front of the plane screaming, ‘I’m too young to die!’  Then she yells, ‘Well, if I’m going to die, I want my last minutes on earth to be memorable!  No one has ever made me really feel like a woman!  Well, I’ve had it!  Is there anyone on this plane who can make me feel like a woman?’

For a moment there is silence.  Everyone has forgotten his own peril, and they all stare, riveted, at the desperate woman in the front of the plane. Then a man steps up in the rear.  He’s a tall, tanned hunk with jet-black hair, and he starts to walk slowly up the aisle, unbuttoning his shirt.  ‘I can make you feel like a woman,’ he says.

No one moves.  As the man approaches, the woman begins to get excited.  He removes his shirt. Muscles ripple across his chest as he reaches her, extends the arm holding his shirt to the trembling woman, and says, ‘Iron this.’

Here’s another book, courtesy of my husband, who spotted it in a book store.   (I must note, he did not purchase it.)  Further proof of the coming extinction of ironing  as a woman’s domaine.  Also of my feeling like a dinosaur (see above; even Barney has a more evolved view).


*In the time I’ve been writing this post, I saw a film clip of Ronald Reagan’s famous “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” speech while visiting The–wonderful–National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. Then, on June 12, I happened to hear on the radio that it was the  26th anniversary of the speech.  Phew …  synchronicity strikes again!

My Ironing Pile Is Eating My Meditation Cushion

Clump #26:  Conquer ironing pile.

I swear I did not stage this photo.  The meditation pillows are a little hard to see, on the lower left.  My poor Chi!  Here’s a confession about me and ironing.  Subconsciously I know that the minute I iron the items in the ironing pile, they will be put into action, worn, and then — in a flash — will be back to the ironing pile again.  By postponing the inevitable, I stop the cycle for a while.  It’s not a good excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.


Here’s the basket hidden below, with poor Christmas place mats wondering when they will ever see the light of day.  I guess that answers the question of how long the pile has been festering — not the whole pile, mind you, but certainly the bottom-dwellers.


And here is the “After” shot of mission accomplished (part of it), and another, more virtuous confession.  When I finally start ironing, with a fluffy, romantic movie on to keep me company, I actually enjoy it.  I watched The Holiday and Chocolat to help me through this ironing monstrosity.  Another perennial favorite in my ironing movie collection is Pride and Prejudice.  An ironing movie must be one I have seen previously, otherwise I wouldn’t want to look down at what I am doing.  Also, the movie must have a happy ending.  There is something very cozy about getting all the wrinkles out of the fabric at hand as the heroine of an ironing movie, inevitably, gets all the wrinkles out of her life.


I apologize to loyal followers of my blog who have wondered where I’ve been.  I got off-track with a trip through different time and weather zones.  Here are some photos from this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show, featuring a recreation of Big Ben (London calling, again!) to illustrate my boggled mind.  On every hour, the clock would flip out in this way: here we are starting at 9:00.


And then the gears would crank the clock face out (digitally) …


To a garden-themed riot of all things British, with British musical accompaniment …


And changing colored lights …


Beatles popping out of the garden …


And other beloved British musicians …


Like Led Zeppelin …


And whoever this is. (?) (I guess I’m not as cool as I thought!) …


Mr. Bean and Freddie Mercury; Benny Hill, Monty Python (not pictured) and so many others …


Book-ending with the Beatles sprouting from the garden again, older and fancier.


Whether it’s stopping the clock, leaving reality for vacation, or avoiding the ironing pile, postponing the inevitable is never a good long-term solution.  Excuse me while I meditate on this for a while.