And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
Some weeks are just full of richness. I’m in La Crosse, Wisconsin, doing several events including visiting a book club, doing a reading/signing/discussion at a bookstore, and teaching a class called The Labyrinth & The Creative Spirit at a beautiful sculpture garden. My week has also been full of reading in bed, sleeping in, taking a book along to read by the Mississippi River, and there’s more yet to come, since I don’t go home until Sunday.
But there was one moment in particular, an odd one, that had me laughing out loud all alone in my hotel room, and so I’ve chosen that one.
I’m staying in what is my favorite hotel, a Super8. It’s a very simple, basic hotel. The room is comfortable, the bed lovely, there’s a window I can open to let in fresh air. It has one of the best swimming pools I’ve ever been in, and it has a great hot tub too. Since I’ve learned to swim since the last time I was here, I’m actually using the swimming pool as a swimming pool. And I’ve discovered, without the blue line on the bottom of the gym’s pool, it is not feasible for me to swim in a straight line. Even with my mask on. Luckily, the others in the pool have been good about getting out of my way.
But it’s the people here that make it great. The folks behind the desk go out of their way to make your stay comfortable and everything you need it to be. They are even keeping me supplied with extra coffee!
So the other night, as I looked up from reading my book, I pondered the full size ironing board and massive iron that hung from one of the walls. I wondered how long it had been since anyone used it, or if anyone ever used it at all.
I’ve seen ironing boards and irons in hotels before, but usually, they’re tucked away. This one is right out in the open. My own experience with ironing is minimal and disastrous. When I was first married to husband number 1, and I was all of 21 years old, I bought what I thought was a beautiful shower curtain for our apartment bathroom. The shower curtain part was white, and then there were these sheers that hung over it in a drapery way, as if the shower was a big window. The sheers where covered with yellow flowers, and there was a valance too. I fought to figure out how to hang it all up, wanting it in place in time for my new husband to come home and be impressed with my domestic skills. But when I got it all up, I found that the effect was marred by the sheers being very wrinkled from being in the package. That just wouldn’t do.
We’d been given a tabletop ironing board and iron for a wedding present, so I fought the sheers back down, placed the board on my used kitchen table, turned on the iron and placed it on the sheer, fragile fabric.
And I burned the hell out of it.
This was probably the first secret I kept from that husband. Sobbing, I threw the burnt sheers into the dumpster behind the apartment building. When my husband saw the plain shower curtain, he was puzzled. “Why’d you just choose white?” he asked. “I couldn’t decide,” I said, “and it was cheap,” which pleased him.
So I studied this ironing board and iron in my hotel room. And then I laughed because my thoughts immediately turned to…The Waltons.
While I was still with this same husband, and our big kids were small, we made a trip to see the real Walton’s Mountain, which is Schuyler, Virginia. The Walton house, which is really the Hamner house, is still there, and there is a Walton’s Mountain Museum as well. There is a recreation of the kitchen and John Boy’s bedroom. We took the tour and I listened closely as the tour guide pointed out the quilt on John Boy’s bed.
“Do you recognize that?” she said. “That’s the very quilt that John wrapped Olivia in when he took her to the hospital when she fell ill with polio.”
I couldn’t help myself. “No, it’s not,” I said. “That’s the signature quilt that Olivia’s friends brought her while she was sick. Dr. Vance said she was too ill to go to the hospital, so they treated her at home. John wrapped her in the quilt to bring her down to the living room so she could watch Jason sing the song that he wrote, that just won him first prize at a talent show. The song was inspired by Grandma, who was ironing in such a rhythmic way that he got the song out of it. It was called The Ironing Board Blues.” And then I sang a few lines.
The tour guide and the group fell silent. My husband looked anywhere but at me.
“Let’s move on,” the tour guide finally said.
Hey, if you’re going to give a tour, you’d better get it right!
And in my hotel room, I laughed. My life, it seems, has mellowed into memories of burned shower curtains and The Waltons. And I’m just fine with that.
Thank you, John, Olivia (ever wonder where my Olivia’s name comes from? Now you know!), John Boy, Jason, Mary Ellen, Erin, Jim Bob, Elizabeth, Grandma, Grandpa, and especially Earl Hamner who made my day when he friended me on Facebook a few years before his death.
I never touched another iron and I never will, though I gave the hotel iron a good pat for bringing me a laugh.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.
If you’d like to see, here is a video clip of Jason singing his song. If you look closely, you’ll see Olivia is wrapped in the signature quilt. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cy3xhhV7CvQ