See No Evil

muddy feetI didn’t like having syrup for breakfast on school mornings when I was a little kid since I was lazy about washing up afterwards. In class, my papers stuck to me all morning till I went out at recess. Then I usually romped around and came back in with dirt sticking to the syrupy patches. I never saw much point in washing up before meals anyway. I knew something as tiny as a germ couldn’t possibly hurt me.
Now, there were occasions I had no problem with washing, but really felt soap was overrated. I had my standards and expected to wash after contact with earthworms, snails, slimy animal carcasses, blood, axle grease, or chicken poop between my bare toes, sometimes even using soap voluntarily. I was on the fence about frogs. I wasn’t altogether sure they didn’t cause warts. Sue Lunsford played with frogs all the time and had lots of warts, so I erred on the side of caution, washing with soap after quality time with frogs. After I smelled a dog once who’d tangled with a skunk. I put that on my list, too. I figured if you could see dirt or it would rub off on people or furniture, it was good to wash. I also believed in washing loose sand off. I hated walking barefoot on gritty sand on smooth floors. I was also happy to take a bath if I’d been playing in sand. I hated the way it made the sheets feel. We threw sand and dirt at each other a lot, so I’d done the research.
Unfortunately for me, Mother didn’t share my philosophy about washing, insisting I wash my hands and arms up to my elbows with soap and water before every meal. Naturally, I fell short as often as possible, often just running my dirty hands and arms under the running water and drying on the towel by the sink. The dirty, streaked up towel ratted me out quite a few times.

Washing after meals would have been insane.

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Not a Small Matter!

Grandma young adult0007dentures by mail 1gum diseasefamily6Grandma was born in 1896. Very progressive, she employed higher standards of hygiene I do today, possibly because she’d barely survived typhoid in her mid-forties. Like me, washed her hands frequently as she cooked, but she scalded instead of merely rinsing her dishes, and boiled her whites, linens, and towels when doing her laundry with home-made lye soap in a huge cast-iron washpot outdoors until she got a washing machine. Continue reading