Monday, September 21, 2009

Lemon Starch

I ironed a shirt for Harrison tonight. I don’t iron. Ever. I mean, I press seams as I’m sewing garments, but I don’t iron clothes as a general rule. Tomorrow is school picture day, though, and even though he wears the same shirt I ironed to church all the time “dryer pressed,” I wanted to make sure he looked nice since there would be photographic evidence. :)

The smell of the starch kind of threw me for a loop. My grandma always used lemon scented spray starch on her laundry. I never much paid attention to it, but the smell was always kind of there when I was a kid.

During the summer of 1990, I remember going to spend a week or two in Arkansas with my grandparents. Grandpa and my cousin Jody had convinced me to get up on stage with them at the monthly jam session they had with their musical friends. I couldn’t play an instrument to save my life, but I could sing, so I figured that would be just dandy.

In preparation for my night on the stage, Grandma took special care with my wardrobe. She washed and dried my clothes, which was not that out of the ordinary, but she also ironed them. Now, I come by my not caring to iron honestly—my mom never much cared to iron either. We did a lot of wash-n-wear when I was a kid. I still do. It always seemed a senseless task to me since an hour after you put the garment on, it’s just going to be wrinkled all over again. If we were wearing something that was ridiculously wrinkled, we’d spot press it and call it good, but we didn’t sit around ironing stuff just because it had been wet at some point and had then been dried. That was crazy talk.

So when my Grandma ironed the woven cotton shirt, I didn’t think too much about it—it was kind of wrinkled and I might have done the same thing in the same situation. What got me was when Grandma started ironing my blue jeans. Never in my life had I considered the need to iron jeans. I still think it’s kind of silly, but I’ll tell you what, it was probably the smoothest feeling pair of pants I ever wore. The tangy smell of lemon scented starch hung about me all night up on that stage, through the good (my voice sounded pretty nice) as well as the bad (my timing was pretty terrible, which I still contend would have been better if we had had at least one run through of the songs I was singing before the crowds showed up). What’s more, they looked good. Grandma knew that all of Sparkman, Arkansas was going to be there that night and she wanted to make sure her little girl looked as nice as possible.

To this day, the smell of lemon starch reminds me of my Grandma. I don’t use it often—I’m usually a steam and nothing much else kind of girl (when I bother to iron at all), but every now and then I break out the can and spritz and glide. I had forgotten about the smell and its associations until tonight when I was ironing Harrison’s shirt. The first spray, though, caused me to buckle at the knees though and even now, several hours later, I’m still a little choked up thinking about Grandma.

It’s the little things that matter and I suppose I want Harrison to look nice for his pictures tomorrow the same way that Grandma wanted me to look nice for Sparkman. In the grand scheme, it doesn’t make a hill of beans. He’ll probably be rumpled regardless of how much I try to dress him up. But I hope he smells the lemons and makes a sensory connection. I hope he always thinks of lemon starch as a happy smell.

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