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It’s an hour before dinner and I’m just about to go downstairs and do my meditation: ironing napkins. If my mother heard about it, she’d laugh like crazy. As a kid, I used to rail against having to iron my dad’s handkerchiefs and shirts. Why couldn’t he do it? I’d complain, wanting to be outside, anywhere but stuck in a gloomy room maneuvering the point of the iron into collar corners. My mother, I guess, didn’t like the task much, either, and had foisted it off on me.
I still don’t iron much. Just my napkins. But somehow I find the act of smoothing those cloth squares with the hot iron oddly soothing. I’m not a perfectionist about it. Not at all. I pick the napkins up at flea markets or brocantes (junk stores) when I’m in France. One set I bought in Alsace at least 20 years ago and I’m still using them.
At home, we always used paper napkins. We might have had one set of cloth ones my mother trotted out with her silver on special occasions, i.e., Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, inspired by my friend Mary who uses beautiful hand-embroidered napkins for everyday, I now use mine all the time. If you wash them the next day, most of the stains come right out. Mary, though, sticks hers in a bucket of Biz the night before. Simple. And such a daily pleasure.
-- S. Irene Virbila