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Doug Lewandowski column: A nostalgic view of domestic duties

Ironing was rewarded with a perfect crease and a wrinkle-free finished product. Something had been accomplished.

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The domestic side of any long-term partnership shifts and changes over time. What works at age 25 is different at 60.

Would you believe 70?

In a young household, cleaning up after a meal feels like a break when one of the partners takes the kids for a walk or does some “wrasslin'” on the living room floor. Maybe, just maybe, the tumbling around might tire out the rugrats, and there wouldn’t be fighting about going to bed before midnight.

The time in the kitchen scrubbing burnt hamburger residue from a frying pan would feel like a vacation — kind of.

Take ironing. You say “what?” Yeah, honest to god, I used to do that in order to look spiffy.

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I learned to iron in ninth grade. I had to wear a uniform at the high school I attended. Mom wasn’t going to do it. She had enough with work, meal preparation and picking up after us. Once taught, I was on my own.

There was a lot of fumbling around trying to figure out what worked best. The temperature had to be right or nothing would happen. Too hot, and shirts or pants would get toasted — literally. The brown khaki twill shirts needed to be pressed, otherwise they looked like they’d been used to wipe the floor in the kitchen.

I got the hang of it eventually, even tackling white dress shirts that were needed once in a while for family events or inspections by the lieutenant colonel at school.

In the early 1970s, there were a lot of loose-fitting shirts, caftans and collarless guru attire. But nonetheless, I had to wear a shirt and tie on my first teaching job. I was too busy to iron, so I would bring shirts to the nearest laundry and have them washed, pressed, folded and packaged. I still didn’t have an iron.

Then came permanent press — liberation! That was fine for a while until a well-worn shirt lost some of its built-in bounceback. Then, where was the iron?

I shifted jobs and ended up working alongside a guy who could only be characterized as well-dressed. He also wore ties, which made it even more important to make sure the shirts I wore were at least presentable. I started ironing in earnest.

Sunday night was my time. After a week’s work as a counselor/psychologist, freshly washed shirts from weekend laundering were dragged upstairs and stiffened up a bit with a good pressing. It usually took about an hour to do them all. After the third one, a kind of rhythm developed to the work.

The task was simple and rewarded most often with a perfect crease and a wrinkle-free finished product. Something had been accomplished.

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Over time, just like the escape my wife enjoyed doing evening dishes while I rolled around with the kids on the living room floor, it was a getaway, a kind of zen experience, satisfying in itself.

Now, I live in faded jeans and sweatshirts most of the time. I get my contemplative time in other ways. I don’t iron the hoodies.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at lewandowskidoug@gmail.com.

Doug Lewandowski mug.jpg
Doug Lewandowski

Rick Lubbers has been in his role since 2014 and at the News Tribune since 2005. Previous stops include the Superior Telegram (1999-2005) and Budgeteer News (1997-1999). Prior to that, he worked at the St. Cloud Times and Annandale Advocate in Minnesota, and the Greenville Daily News and Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received his journalism degree at Central Michigan University.
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