Monday, March 29, 2010

Ironing memorial

Back in the day, when we were young and the world was fresh and green, there was a house with a mountain of ironing.

'Oh, what to do?' I wailed, because I lived in that house. It was house where the men folk believed that such chores were womens' work and I was stupid enough to believe them. It was my problem and I must find a solution or become as a limp rag.

It came to pass, having offered up a votive card in the Post Office Window, that we were blessed with an 'ironing lady'. Her name was June.
There are not many such as June born into this world - this one was a treasure of the first water. Oh, June you were blessed amongst women. I do not mean that lightly.

She came to my house for perhaps 10 or 12 years in total, starting with housework and by degrees refining her workload to getting to the bottom of the mountain of ironing. Shirts on hangers - always perfect, Alan's trousers pressed 'just how he liked them'. That was important. Perfect, June.

She flirted with the Glam.Ass. My young men, then boys, loved her - made her tea and provided Kit-Kats. She and I talked - and in the time we talked I guess I could have done my own ironing. We shared our triumphs, woes and worries....Her troubles were mine and mine were hers. Secrets were safe. She knew if I'd done something soooooo studid that I hardly dare admit it, she knew where our wills were and where the car keys and jewellery were stashed when we went on holiday. Just in case.

Without an ironing board between us though we would probably never have exchanged a word. How much I would have missed.

Hands up now, how many of us think that housework - cleaning, ironing - is some sort of demeaning task? Utter waste of time and energy? Hmm - I thought so. Me too. I did. To June it was her job which she did well and was proud of the difference she made. When I find myself taking shortcuts and flicking dust about willy-nilly I imagine myself under June's ever-so-slightly reproachful gaze because it doesn't really take that much effort to do the job properly does it?

You've guessed of course......she is no more. Her son emailed a couple of days ago to say she had died in February - he was letting people know. He'd nursed her through a short illness which turned out to be a debilitating brain tumour. (That's no job for a lad to do is it?) There had been no card this Christmas - a bit of a clue in retrospect - odd, but we've been away for over 6 years now and lives do move on. My friend is gone and I am sad that she won't now enjoy the leisure time she was looking forward too so much - and so deserved.

June: eternal optimist, Meatloaf's biggest fan, ever in search of Mr Right and a house without stairs; the next creased basket of washing, which I shall attack tomorrow morning, is dedicated to you. I shall leave no crease unpressed. RIP. xx

14 comments:

rachel said...

Oh no - how very sad. These are strange and special relationships between us and the people who help us in the most ordinary ways by cleaning or ironing for us. They see into our lives in a way that even our closest friends don't, and see us as we are - imperfectly domesticated, disorganised, slapdash - and in need of their help. Already I worry about the loss of Margery, my June, when I move....

Angie said...

What a wonderful epitaph to an amazing lady.
I never had a 'June ' ...only dreamt of one ...I learnt what didnt need to be ironed if hung properly and only ironed what was had to be (shirts etc)How I wish I had had a friend like June.

Pondside said...

I thought that women like your friend June only existed in fiction. Lucky you, to have met her, to have had her in your life.

Wipso said...

What a beautiful blog. Thank you for sharing what was obviously a very special relationship.
A x

Pam said...

How sad that's she has gone - early in her life by all accounts? I wish I had a June, not just for the housework help but the chit-chat too. X

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Treasures in every sense of the word . A godsend when children are little and life gets rather chaotic , they eventually become an integral part of the family .
Ours even knew the entire calendar of Saints' Days , so handy when wondering who to appeal to on any given day .
She would have loved this evidence of your continuing affection and appreciation of a job well done .

elizabethm said...

I have such a person now for the first time in my life and every word you write resonates - more than an employee, somehow even more than a friend. I can't imagine life without her.

Kirsty.a said...

A beautful and touching blog

Twiglet said...

Perfect. You have a way of making what could be mundane so readable and entertaining. In this blog you also manage to convey the emotion of such a sad passing. What treasures - both you and June!

eleanor's byre said...

I do hope you direct her son to this wonderful epitaph.
My June was called Lorraine and without her I would've disappeared into the depths of depression. She came to help me out for a few weeks when youngest was born and stayed eleven years. She's now an accountant.

Chris Stovell said...

RIP June (although since I used to be an Ironing Lady I do hope I don't get a similar tribute one day). Sad for all, but very hard for her son.

Tattie Weasle said...

A wonderful and moving post. I have the lovely Therese who picks it up whisks it away and miraculously delivers it back all pristine every Saturday morning...

valct4joy said...

My June is called Diane and she helped me to balance the soaring stress levels caused by a demanding job, a large house, a husband mostly away on business and a daughter and family who moved back home before emigrating. Diane worked with me for 20 years and has now retired and I miss her so much. At least we can get together for coffee and cake every three months and catch up on each others news.

The Eyechild said...

For the record m'lud, I don't think I ever thought ironing was 'woman's work' per se, but neither have I ironed anything in 6 months (get the shirts on a hangar whilst still wet works fine for me – and I got that tip from a girl!).

Sorry to hear about June though, she was nice.