I am re-posting this just because I enjoyed writing it. Maybe you have read it before but this time you will read it with different eyes.
I admire my mom so much! She has bathed her kids and grandkids in a gentle shower of wisdom from the moment we were born. When I made a goal in my late 20’s to learn all the skills that my grandmother and great-grandmother had for health care, homemaking and survival, I didn’t quite realize how much of it my mother had already inserted into my heart and mind. You see, my mom is the world’s best teacher.
Moment by moment she taught me. How many times did she unwrap a bar of soap, bring to my attention the pleasant scent and then proceed to take my hand and walk down the lush paths of her memory? Perhaps she would share about my brother who was allergic to Ivory Soap, and then turn down the lane of soap making, including how to leach a passable lye from wood ashes and even how to prepare a stump or a chunk of wood to drip the lye water out. Here, memories were not just how-to facts, they were unhurried visits with the people who had gone on before us. I could see the crepe-like and calloused hands of my great grandmother scooping the soft gel soap from the gourd soap holder into the tub of hot water. I could see her swishing it counter clockwise to make suds and adding in the dishes, glasses first then the dirtier dishes after to be followed later by the cooking vessels. Did she shift about on arthritic legs? Was she gray already? Who were the children at this time? I could see those hands, smell the hot soapy water and hear the sound of a few fingers full of salt being scrubbed around in the cast iron skillet. This would remove anything stuck on before the skillet was rinsed and dried on the back of the wood fired cook stove. After it was thoroughly dry, a bit of lard would be whisked around with those same gnarled fingers. Perhaps a pot of chicory and coffee mixed would be set to cook on the last heat of the cook stove or a pan of water for washing hands and feet before bed. Then on the vine-sheltered porch of my mother’s memory I would settle into an imaginary straight chair leaned against the wall and listen to the after supper “visiting” until the house cooled enough for sleeping. All of this is tied to the scent of soap.
If only my mom could put it all in a pill! I would buy those pills if it took everything I own and I would give one to everyone I love as well as to every kindly stranger I met. I would give one to all the teachers in the schools and pastors behind the pulpits. I would offer this pill to the politicians and pray they would be wise enough to take one. There might
also be the occasional fool-with-potential whose coffee would get spiked unbeknownst to him.
The reality is that the pill doesn’t exist. All I can do is try to follow those old paths that my family has walked and try to connect them to the world that my children and grandchildren live in. Even when they seem too busy, too sophisticated, too prosperous or prideful, who knows what they will remember when they unwrap a bar of soap?