I just finished reading the book Ardnish Was Home by Angus MacDonald. We used to holiday in Ardnamurchan, not far from where the story is partly set. I say ‘partly’, because it’s the story of a wounded solider and his nurse in Turkey during the Gallipoli campaign in World War One. Interspersed throughout the story, the injured soldier tells his nurse about life and traditions in his Highland village.
Which got me remembering…
I’m in the process of selling my house, so it’s being kept much tidier and cleaner than normal. Making my bed this morning made me think of my mum. As someone who never owned a tumble dryer, she ironed everything, and I mean everything; socks, hankies, shirts, petticoats (or ‘petties’ as she called them), dishtowels, pillow cases, sheets.
She had a unique technique for the sheets. Naturally, they were always white – and cotton – which had to be folded lengthwise in a particular way after she took them down from the washing line. Then either my sister or myself would take one end while Mum took the other, and we’d ‘pull’ the sheet to get out the worst of the wrinkles. Once that was done, she’d iron them completely smooth before she put them back on the bed. Same with the pillowcases. They were always pristine and smelled of the fresh outdoors.
Nowadays, it’s out of the tumble-dryer for me, onto the bed, and smoothing them as best I can with my hand. But there are always wrinkles left – wrinkles of which I know Mum wouldn’t approve.
Like the memories in the book, the ‘pulling of the sheets’ is a piece of family history that perhaps only I and my sister remember now. And yet, although I would huff and puff about having to help Mum, I remember it fondly. We’d talk, and laugh, and sometimes try to pull each other off balance!
I’m sure Mum learned the technique from her mother, and she, perhaps, from her own mother.
A female tradition, stretching down the generations, to be lost with the introduction of modern technology.