Sunday, December 19, 2010
at 9:38 AM
We have the tree all decorated, and it looks really nice. But the big job of putting out the many Santas I have for the annual Santa count we do with the grandkids hasn't even begun. Along with the other decorations for Christmas, the Santas are all still in their big plastic bins on the back deck, waiting to be freed for their big day. But back to this morning.
...ironing the table napkins.
I only started using cloth napkins a few years ago, at Ed's request, who liked the idea of taking them to work in his lunch. Since then, it has become a guilty pleasure to go look for them in stores like Homegoods, Tuesday Mornings, TJ Maxx, etc., to search out the normally-expensive-on-sale-due-to-limited-availability-or-odd-lots, etc. cloth napkins. As a result, I have drawers full of beautiful and plain, dressy and everyday napkins on hand.
We don't go through them that fast here, just the two of us, and so they pile up in the laundry and then in the ironing pile. Some don't really need to be ironed, like Ed's gingham ones that practically iron themselves. But some really do need to be ironed and they sit folded in a canvas bin in the laundry room until just the right moment.
Other things sit in the laundry room waiting to be ironed may never make it to the ironing board. Like the summer blouses I still have hanging by the dryer. They have been waiting months, but between you and me, they will probably just go in the closet in the guest room all wrinkly until next spring when they'd need to be ironed again anyway even if they had been put up wrinkle-free.
Now folding warm towels right out of the dryer comes close to the satisfaction I get from ironing my table napkins. The pile of warm fluffy towels right out of the dryer, in which, I admit, I do sometimes bury my face and breathe in deeply, is something to be proud of and looks very impressive. (Hint for everyone out there, if you want to make your significant other happy, just put a towel in the dryer for 10 minutes before you hand it to her/him as he/she exits the shower/bath. What a luxury!But I digress.)
However, the process of ironing the napkins is all of that and more. It's transcendent and spiritual and very therapeutic. First, I dampen them with a spray bottle of water, thinking about that shaker bottle my mother used to use. But now, with a plastic spray bottle from the Dollar Store, I spray them all at once so there is a chaotic pile of slightly dampened napkins, from which I get to choose. And I choose the white cotton ones first. There are more of them than the others and they offer a certain challenge that I like.
Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I really get irritated when folding fitted sheets or things that don't line up just so. But, after a few washings, inexpensive table linens do lose their squareness. It becomes difficult to "kiss the corners" as my Godmother instructed me when teaching me how to fold laundry. But, laying the clean, white imperfect napkin completely unfolded, flat on the ironing board, I apply the steam iron, hot and ready, first to the center and work my way toward the hemmed edges. The steam wafts up to meet me and softly comes a scent similar to Clean Cotton, Fresh Linen and all those other scents we pay for at Bath and Body Works or Bed Bath and Beyond. But those aren't quite the same because the warm smell of freshly laundered, damp cotton just can't be duplicated.
I fold the napkin in half, horizontally, noticing that the right hand corner of the top layer doesn't meet the same on the bottom layer. But, not to worry. A bit of an adjustment, ironing the fold to a crease as sharp as a knife, and folding in half once again, the short side is invisible and there in front of me is a perfect, warm, slightly damp square.
The kitchen timer just went off and the bread is out of the oven, all beautifully browned and ready to sample.