I haven’t had to iron for absolute ages, but it became necessary the other day. It was such a momentous event that I take note of it. Most everything we own now is permanent press, wrinkle free, or boasts my favorite label, “dry clean only.” Occasionally though, some article of clothing or household linen fails to live up to its publicity, and heaving a great martyr sigh, I press on.

But every time I take on this household chore, I think of my late mother. She was perfectly normal in every way save one: the woman actually liked to iron! Whenever she’d come to visit us, she’d hand over her suitcase, give everybody a hug and ask, “Got anything for me to iron?”

Actress Sandra Bullock said she was possessed of this same outlandish trait. She said it was like smoothing out chaos. It was probably the same for mother. In my youth she had a mangle iron, an appliance about the size of a console piano, which lived in a niche in our Atlanta kitchen. It had a long revolving and padded cylinder you sat in front of and operated with a foot pedal – just like the pros.

In many ways, the mangle was her household headquarters. She spent hours at this task. She was set up both for entertainment and action. A radio sat on the iron’s top and she happily guided sleeves and collars through the device while keeping up with the happenings in the lives of such as audio soaps as Lorenzo Jones, Just Plain Bill and Our Gal Sunday.

She could also lean over to her left and stir a stew pot on the adjacent stove or stretch behind her and open the pantry door. She’d scan the shelves and issue orders to her first born – me – to open a couple of cans of peas and get them heating while she finished up. Aside from her four little darlings, mother’s main reason for needing the industrial strength ironing aid was my dad. He often wore 20, long-sleeved starched dress shirts a week. For several years he traveled to steel mills, always sweaty places. And in those days cars, hotels and restaurants weren’t air conditioned.

I have in my time, ironed countless military uniforms as well as blue jeans.

A couple of years ago, after being frustrated at plugs tangling on top of the board and extensions piling up in my way underneath, I treated myself to a cordless iron. This is one of my household luxuries I hold in great esteem. It’s modern. It makes ironing easier. But it doesn’t make me like it!

Barbara Hill is a local historian and former reporter for the Summerville Journal Scene.