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I had been struggling today to decide on what to write about.  Not having any particular thing in mind, I turned my attention to my Google Reader, to catch up on the genealogy blogs I follow.  In doing so, I came across a post made earlier this month by Sheryl Lazarus on her blog “A Hundred Years Ago” about ironing.  It brought to mind two pieces of family lore about irons and ironing.

The first story is about my Aunt Georgia and my Grandma Taylor.  When the ironing had to be done, Aunt Georgia told me that to pass the time, she and my grandmother would read poetry to one another.  They would take turns, one of them ironing, and the other reading aloud, until all the clothes were pressed.  My Aunt Georgia’s favorite was “The Fool’s Prayer” by Edward Rowland Sill:


by: Edward Rowland Sill (1841-1887)

The royal feast was done; the King
Sought some new sport to banish care,
And to his jester cried: “Sir Fool,
Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!”
The jester doffed his cap and bells,
And stood the mocking court before;
They could not see the bitter smile
Behind the painted grin he wore.
He bowed his head, and bent his knee
Upon the Monarch’s silken stool;
His pleading voice arose: “O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
“No pity, Lord, could change the heart
From red with wrong to white as wool;
The rod must heal the sin: but Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!
“‘T is not by guilt the onward sweep
Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;
‘T is by our follies that so long
We hold the earth from heaven away.
“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,
Go crushing blossoms without end;
These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust
Among the heart-strings of a friend.
“The ill-timed truth we might have kept–
Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?
The word we had not sense to say–
Who knows how grandly it had rung!
“Our faults no tenderness should ask.
The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders — oh, in shame
Before the eyes of heaven we fall.
“Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the knave, and scourge the tool
That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!”
The room was hushed; in silence rose
The King, and sought his gardens cool,
And walked apart, and murmured low,
“Be merciful to me, a fool!”
“The Fool’s Prayer” is reprinted from The Little Book of American Poets: 1787-1900. Ed. Jessie B. Rittenhouse. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1915.

The second story of ironing is about my brother, Tim.  At one point in his young age, Tim liked to iron when he would visit my Grandma Newell’s house.  For hours I’m told, he would pretend to iron, using a container of baby powder as his iron of choice.  Back and forth his little arm would go, smoothing out the wrinkles of imaginary pieces of fabric.

At some point, the family decided that since he liked to iron so much, they would get him a toy iron so he could play with a “real” iron.  The gift was given, and the family waited to watch Tim with his new toy.  From what I’m told, he picked it up, set it aside, and went right on “ironing” with his baby powder box!

The toy iron did get some use though; when I was old enough, I played with it. 🙂

Thanks, Sheryl, for inspiring me to share these stories!