A Step Back to Domesticity

I ran across this entry from a former blog I had. It was written December, 2011. It brought me some smiles. I hope you enjoy it also.

A Step Back to Domesticity

I mended a set of sheets today, much to the amazement of my family. When they realized what I was doing, one would have thought I had grown a second head. Blank stares. “Why don’t you just go buy a new set?” I was asked. Why indeed?

Truth be told, I did purchase a new set a few days ago. I chose one of the less expensive establishments and still, for 300 thread count sheets I paid $39! Forty bucks for a set of sheets! I had automatically placed the old sheets in the laundry hamper when I removed them from the bed, thinking that whether I donated them to charity or used them for cleaning cloths or whatever, I would want them to be clean and fresh. 

As I removed that nice fresh smelling bundle out of the dryer, a thought struck me. Though there were a couple of “L” shaped tears, the sheets seemed to be saying “we still have use left in us!” I was taken back to my childhood when it was common for my mother and grandmother to mend clothes, linens, darn socks, replace buttons and do whatever was necessary to extend the life of whatever we had been blessed with.

My mother would lovingly launder our clothes and then take the time to hang it on a clothesline in our backyard. Those baskets of wet clothes were heavy! Then she would reach up and carefully clip a clothes pin over the edge of the sock or towel and wait for the fresh air to do the job of drying the clothes. Then back out she would trek to carefully remove the clothes and carry them into the house where she would fluff, fold and iron until everything was just so. Each fold, shake, smooth and pressing contained countless prayers for the owner.

My father was a welder & mechanic on heavy duty highway construction equipment. To deflect the sparks from welding, my mother would laboriously soak his work clothes in a mixture of water and liquid laundry starch, wring them out individually by hand and then iron them, by hand to a stiff, shiny, crisp uniform that he was proud to don. He knew he would be protected from spark burns and he always looked neat and nice at the beginning of each work day, with his grey work outfit and black engineer boots. 

So, why did I mend my sheets and what does my mother’s laundry routines have to do with it? I realized that for the last 20 years I have cheated my family out of living frugally. I have cheated myself out of the domestic routines that added so much value to my life as a child. Up till 6 months ago I have worked at jobs that were decently lucrative and my family has become caught up in the “disposable mentality” that our society espouses! “If the sheet tears, throw it away; if a button falls off, donate the shirt to charity; if the shoe is scuffed, get rid of it and just go buy a new item.” That mentality is no longer practical, with me being unemployed. We have to learn from the past.

My dad, as I mentioned, worked in construction. Looking back I now know that some years were great and some years were very lean. We had to make the most of every single thing we were provided. And my parents did it elegantly! Linens and clothes were mended, shoes were repaired, buttons were replaced, cars maintained and respected and our home was humble but safe, warm and sufficient. I knew that taking care of things showed our appreciation for that which we were blessed with. I didn’t really realize, as a youngster that it was also a way of stretching the meager income my parents supported us with. “Things” last a long time and you grow very fond of them when you painstakingly choose to care for them, repair them, maintain them through the years.

I didn’t stop at mending those sheets. The fragrance of fresh, clean cotton beckoned me. I got out my iron and ironing board, grabbed the Egyptian cotton linen spray, and I ironed the pillow cases just the way my precious mom used to do. I spritzed them lightly with the spray, and smoothed the case with the hot iron. I folded it in half and ironed it again. Once again, I brought the edges of the pillow case together in a fold leaving me with a long rectangle across the width of the pillow case. I pressed it once more, then took the right edge and folded it over then the left edge and laid it carefully over also, folding it into thirds. Smooth, crisp, fresh, clean, ironed pillow cases.

I can hardly wait to change the sheets again. The new, 300 thread count, overpriced sheets are on the bed right now. I’m looking forward to laying my cheek on my old, mended, freshly laundered and ironed sheets. They will take me back to my childhood when I lie down that night. To the day of the week my mother would do the laundry, carry it to the clothesline, hang them out to dry, bring them in and lovingly iron my sweetly embroidered pillow case and I’d climb into my bed and deeply breathe in that sweet, sweet smell of clean cotton, and of my mom. I’ll sleep well that night, just like I did so long ago.