Folding Sheets in a Postmodern World

Deep in the dark, musty smelling, cement-chilly basement of my childhood home stood the mangle, yes, you read right. The mangle’s purpose was to iron sheets. I remember my mom feeding freshly laundered, sun dried, flat sheets into the thin, wide mouth of the noisy machine. An iron-hot steel roller pressed the sheet up against a water-stained board and within seconds perfect little folds, hot to the touch, would appear on a little shelf below. In addition to mangling the sheets my mom mangled my dad’s shorts and t-shirts. Such was the life of a modern woman in the 60’s.

Upon reflection I think my mom was pressured into using the mangle by her mother, who was so particular about her bed coverings that she marked the middle point of all of her flat sheets with a colored stitch of thread. Horror of horrors should the sheet not be folded perfectly down the middle. Somewhere along the line of moving from Troy Street to Cedar Circle, the mangle disappeared. My mom, finally set free, joined the ranks of the truly modern woman of the 70’s.

Doing laundry in the 21st Century is a lot easier than it was forty years ago. My washing machine has all sorts of settings and spins, can speed wash, slow wash, hot and cold wash. My grandmother would consider my dryer as something from the space-age. It offers any setting a girl could ever need; but, folding sheets is no easier today than it was 100 years ago. As I struggled to fold my fitted sheets, again, last night, I couldn’t help but wonder why nobody invents a simpler way to untangle the mess of unruly sheets. I often wonder why I even care. What is it about our DNA that says it’s “against the rules” to wad up the dang sheet and throw it in the closet?

Horror of horrors.

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2 thoughts on “Folding Sheets in a Postmodern World

  1. Hi, Cas, I loved reading this. I was just telling our kids a week ago about the mangle in our basement. I never actually saw my mom use it. I’ll bet she “mangled” when we were at school.

  2. I have never even heard of such a device as a mangle! I feel blessed to have tried to use an ‘agitator’ machine in Russia–the kind you fill by hand. Sadly, it was so rusty that it stained our clothes, so we did laundry in the bathtub for the first year. We learned how physically taxing wringing laundry is! (The second year, we just took our laundry to our teammates’ places!)

    I often think of the time-consuming labor involved in washing, and how we are so blessed to not deal with this aspect of life which is truly common to women-kind across the centuries. Russian moms still iron every piece of fabric their babies will touch–not just clothes, but sheets and blankets and burp cloths. As if all that laundry isn’t enough to push a new mom over the edge! But they can fold things so neatly. When we’ve had Russians house-sit, we return to find all our linens fit neatly into the shelves!

    It seems in American culture we have rebelled against the ‘cleanliness is next to godliness of our previous generations. But living among Russians has taught me that neatness and cleanliness is actually a virtue. I now am inspired to put the small effort in to make my environment orderly, because it helps me be at rest emotionally.

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