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Email from Timmie Wiant

Loved the Brown Soap Story.  We too, had brown soap in the laundry room. Mother used it to wash my mouth out any time I was unduly rude or used “dirty” words. Hmmm. How bad could I have been?  I remember also having horrible poison Ivy and being treated with it.



By Timmie Wiant 

childhood memories

tormenting sisters

dirty words

brings on brown soap


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Fels Naphtha I knew, but not brown soap.

—from Ina Lowenberg

I never used that old fashioned wringer washing machine, nor did my mother. In the city, linens went to the Chinese laundry. My sweaters were washed by hand—not my hand— and laid on towels on the floor of my room to dry. I did plenty of hand washing in my early married years, kneeling by the bathtub and hanging the dripping clothes on a rack or a line over the tub. That was a summer in London when Jerry did his dissertation research. When we had our first baby, we were living in a railroad apartment on the second floor of a 200-year old farmhouse. Friends lent us a funny tiny electric washer that sat in the sink to do the seemingly endless laundry the baby generated. When we returned it (the washer, not the baby), we asked our landlords if we could use their washer. For an extra $1 a month we did. That is when I wound a rope around the four posts outside and hung sheets, towels, clothes. Delightful except in winter when lines in the basement were used. How stiff the towels became!

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Another memory of Brown Soap…

“Don’t get close to the wringer!” my mother cautioned, as she threaded another piece of clothing through the spinning rollers. And once again I heard her explain the dangers of getting your fingers caught in the wringer of the old tub washing machine. I knew the wringers function, to squeeze the excess water from the clothes before they could be hung up to dry, and I watched again, as I had many times before, anxiously hoping my mother didn’t get her fingers caught as well.

I had played around with it many times before, as all curious children will, moving the locking tab back and forth, feeling the solid unyielding mass of the rollers, trying to lift and spin them, and realizing that getting my fingers caught between the two would indeed be a bad thing.

Fortunately, it was only the horror stories my mother told me, about crushed fingers and pain, that provided the example of the cost of inattention around this most dangerous piece of equipment, used expertly every Saturday by my mother in our basement.

Years afterward, when a new Kenmore sat proudly along the wall, and the old tub with it’s evil hungry wringer had been set aside in the corner, I still glanced at it furtively, wondering how many people had crushed and mangled fingers because of that machine. I was glad to see it go.

From Mark Husk
Morgantown, West Virginia

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The Daffodil and I  

By Michael Chan


The daffodil,

My front yard daffodil is blooming.

Resting on top of protective laces of the stems

Six light yellow petals form a crown fit for a king.

Swinging in the gentle morning breeze,

The daffodil greets me with silent bursts of laughter.

I wake up.


In late autumn last year,

The forever green body had become so limp

That it touched the ground.

Broken twigs and soil crumbled into a jumble.

You were dying.


Winter came.

With the heaviest snow and ice in eighty years,

You waited under the snow and salt,

Not knowing whether you would be alive next spring.

You persevered silently.


Yesterday morning,

Seeing you ballet tip-toeing and laughing,

My heart went out to you.

You had come out from the dirt unblemished.

You were more beautiful than you looked.

You were amazing.


Night came.

Thunder, lightning, wind and rain

Pounded my front yard and my daffodil.

Someone said, “Your flower is gone.”

I said “No.”

And you said, “No”.


Morning came.

You were bowing so low that you touched the earth.

You were not accepting sympathy.

You were calm and joyful.

You kissed the earth.

You showed your gratefulness.


Evening came.

You stood straight and tall.

Waving ever so gracefully in the warm evening wind,

You were happy to greet and inspire me.

Thank you my friend.

You will always be my teacher.

Michael Chan is a member of the Reading Aloud Group at the Iowa City Senior Center

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