We decide to try a Zoom call, a craft-and-chat
with friends and acquaintances and internet
associates — all are welcome in pandemic times —
they are embroidering and knitting and
chatting; I am ironing. Ironing for hours,
going through the stash of fabric, new-washed
and pre-shrunk. Our washing machine has broken
and we don’t want to make a service person
come out, so we are doing our washing in the sink.
I ask Kevin to agitate it for me; my arms are getting
tired. The dryer works, thankfully, and a mass of
fabric emerges, warm and wrinkled. One friend says
“I never iron,” and I tell them that I don’t either, not for
clothes. For a job interview, maybe, and of course,
if I didn’t iron my sari for a family wedding, my mother
would never forgive me. But I do iron when I sew.
It’s the sort of step my lazy inclination would lead me
to skip. When I first start any crafting project, any work
at all, really, I’m always looking for the shortcuts.
Always trying to do a little more, a little faster, where
are there efficiencies, where can I skim off a few
minutes? (One of the mask sewers says that she
daisy-stitches her masks to save time, and I make
a mental note to go look up what that means.) But
with sewing, gardening, cooking, there are always
some steps you simply can’t skip, not without
causing yourself more grief in the long run. We have
enough grief right now, and if you iron your fabric,
the sewing will go smoother. The fabric lays flat,
creases for the pleats slide gently through
the machine, and you won’t need to stop quite
as often to disentangle a bitter nest of threads.
They keep me company while I iron; we talk about
teaching and libraries and books and pandemics,
and the time slips past a little easier. We decide
to call it a craft-and-chat instead of the traditional
stitch-and-bitch; in the bad old days, women would
gather to ‘bitch’ about their cheating, beating husbands,
and thankfully, none of us need that right now. But
there is some kvetching, some venting of frustration;
it helps to say it out loud sometimes — this is hard.
Take a breath, and bend over the iron again, steam
hissing out, water and heat coming together to press
away the wrinkles (and later, I will submerge myself
in a hot bath, let my skin wrinkle and my soul stretch
out), leaving a flat, perfect surface, ready to sew.
I’m not religious, and I’ve always hated the saying that
there are no atheists in foxholes; I can’t just jump to
belief because I’m terrified. If only it were that easy.
But I was never certain enough to call myself an atheist
either. This agnostic is doing her version of praying
over the ironing board, sending fervent wishes out
into the universe, with each slide and careful swoosh
of iron — let the bloody cross not be marked on our
doors, let the hungry ghosts pass without pausing
to feast, let our loved ones be safe. Prayers of a sort,
pressed into fabric with love and care. If anyone
is listening, let this touch us all as lightly as possible.