Chrysta Brown’s father taught her about life by teaching her how to treat her clothes. Here is how.
He never goes anywhere without shining his shoes. I have never seen my father wear jeans, or khakis, or those pleated pants decorated with animals or sailboats. His casual attire is a blue or black tracksuit, and he is only casual when he plans on spending the day doing work at home or walking four miles at sunset. In most of the memories I have of my father, he is wearing dress slacks and a shirt, both of them always ironed.
He taught me how to iron. He used my school uniform to hold the pants by the cuff to find the crease, place them on the iron, then fold one pant leg back. Always, always smooth the clothes before you kiss them with the iron lest you press in wrinkles that are easier to put in than they are to get out.
I don’t iron much anymore. I rarely do anything that requires me to do much beyond hanging a garment in the aftermath of a steamy shower, but should the need arise, I am ready for it. Perhaps that is the lesson that all fathers should give to their children. Be ready. Be ready for the wrinkled and the unplanned with an iron will and an iron.
My father is an associate pastor. He spends most Sunday mornings sitting in the back of the sanctuary with my mother. One such morning, the senior pastor summoned him to the pulpit for an impromptu offering. He is dressed in a black suit, white oxford shirt, a black and white tie, and a matching pocket square. He walks like he has classic jazz scores playing in his head. The steps are rhythmic, clean, and powerfully, and soft.
He holds his leather Bible in his right hand as he passes row after row of church attendees with their notebooks and pens at the ready. He surveys the congregation, lifts the microphone to his lips and releases a chuckle. It is the sort of laugh only understood by the people who know him, the ones who have seen him leaning over a shoe shine kit that, he often informs me, is older than I am. It is a secret shared with the people who have watched him smooth the shoe shine brush over a shoe whose sole is the only clue to its age and the frequency of its usage.
He breathes in, “Blessed are the flexible,” he says,“for they will be flexed.”