My Grandma ironed all her pillow cases. I grew up doing it in my Mom’s house too. It was probably because they often dried their sheets and towels on the clothesline and they benefitted from a good pressing. Was there anything more wonderful than snuggling up in crisp fresh sheets that had been dried in the gentle breezes of a soft West Virginia afternoon?
I, however, only iron pillow cases when I’ve forgotten them in the dryer or a basket too long and they are so fatally wrinkled they can’t even fit on the pillows. (Yes, yes, you’re very smart, this happens all the time). Such was the case for the latest load. Often I’ll pop them back in the dryer but this time I decided to iron them. Among them was a pillow case I’ve had since I was a very small girl. It was probably a wedding present for my parents in the early 60s, perhaps even older as the pattern looks more like a 40s or 50s print. It has lovely, delicate, little pink and white flowers with green stems. They are old, stained, but they feel and smell like home.
I love to iron them, I mean I LOVE to iron them. I love ironing all cotton – not just that when you are done you have that amazing soft crispness but the actual act of ironing itself is magical, the warmth making everything straight and sure. If I were ever to become a quilter, it would mostly be for the joy of ironing all the cloth.
Cloth. The cloth of these particular pillow cases is so old. Old cloth. Precious cloth. It’s faded and the threads are spare. In fact, I noticed that there are now actual holes where they have worn so thin. How obvious does the metaphor have to be?! Cloth is our lives. In the Scriptures, the Psalms say that our Creator “knitted” us together in our mother’s wombs. My brother is more genetically like me than anyone else on the planet. I treasure our very special relationship. We come from whole cloth, the whole cloth of my family. Woven together but then separated to become our own out of the whole but still of the same cloth in the end. The little worn places that show the stresses of our lives. The little holes where our loved ones have left us. My Grandma’s birthday was a few days ago and next month she’ll have been gone for six years. She would laugh at me being sentimental over these old worn out pillowcases. Growing up in the Depression in WV, she had little time for old or antique things. She’d seen an awful lot of making do with not enough and nothing new. Through the Lord’s blessings and her tireless work, she made sure her family’s sheets didn’t have holes. But I can’t let these pillowcases go. They are my family’s whole cloth.