The smell of hot cotton fabric permeates the air. I used to hate ironing. I never could get every crease out. A ready iron in my hands had a tendency to create more problems than I could erase, playing hide and seek with wrinkles until it drove me to despair.
The trick is to iron only cotton fabric, cut into squares . I like the small, well-behaved pieces, the calm way they lay still for me, not like hard to manage shoulder seams that always want to squirm away when you try to hold them flat enough to iron. Simple, unsewn pieces have no curves and strange corners.
I push down on the fabric, slowly drawing the heat across a multitude of tiny blue flowers. The busier the pattern, the less the wrinkles show. Still, I pass the iron over the field of blooms again and again, until the scent of hot cotton lingers, memories of little girl dresses.
I had other plans for this fabric. I can still picture the dress in my mind, the one I imagined when I chose this fabric. But then life happened. Time got away. The white and blue dress was never sewn.
The iron creaks. I never had the money for a good iron, so I made do. There were irons I coveted after. Maybe if I had owned one of those my ironing would have been more successful. Nevermind.
I whisk my palm across the hot fabric, not resting there, always moving, moving. I am going to put this in the shadowbox as a background for the dress.
I barely finished the dress in time. Last babies. You understand. The final embroidered flower was stitched in place while I was in the hospital bed recovering from my fourth c-section, and she was brand new to this world. Silk roses on a baby dress. What nonsense.
Two of the flowers need repair. I hesitate. Was it really so long ago her hands were small enough to catch the tiny loops and undo all my meticulous work? It was a trial to keep her from unraveling them all. I thread the needle.
White thread and a twist. One, two, three stitches. The thread knots. I take my time and unravel it. When I was younger, I was always in a hurry, leaving snarls and wadded thread behind on the back sides of my stiches, not worried about what didn’t show. I tease out the tangle and leave a clean, smooth stitch behind.
On her way out she breezes by, her fingers lighting on the dress for two, maybe three, seconds as she walks by. She says, “When I have my baby girl, she will have her picture made in this dress.”
I say nothing, because even though we have said this very same thing a thousand times, I can’t say it today.
She opens the door, her hand jiggling the keys impatiently. They hit against each other and jangle.
She has one foot out the door when I say, “Text me when you get there.”
The response is automatic. “I will, Momma.” Her mind is elsewhere, on her to do list.
Before I assemble the dress and backing into the shadowbox, I pass the iron over the blue flowered fabric one more time, breathing in the smell of hot cotton meant for little girl dresses.