Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Soap Monitor

Yesterday morning, as I was unwrapping a new bar of soap for use in the shower, I was struck once again by the importance of my job as Family Soap Monitor. Over the years, there’s no telling how much soap I’ve saved by salvaging the shards of used bars and gluing them to the new bar — welding the pieces together, matching the cracks and seams, fitting them together like a puzzle, centering them on the new bar so they don’t slide off, making sure there are no stray hairs between the old and the new — by now, even by a modest, conservative estimate, I’ve probably saved three or four bars.

Lest you think I’m just a frugal nut, I’m equally devoted to the artistic presentation of the finished piece. It’s important to me that subsequent bathers have a hand-fashioned soap-sculpture they can admire, and which, on lucky days, sparks the imagination.

There’s nothing worse than stepping into a shower, only to find pieces of soap on the floor, melting, in various stages of decay. I admit, though, that even after all these years, there are certain family members who think, “It’s just soap.” And to them I always say, “You didn’t live through the Great Depression.” I didn’t either, of course. But I was raised on vivid family Depression stories, and I know the value of things. And with the very real possibility of another Depression hanging over us, saving soap is an heroic act. It’s also an act of awareness, responsibility, and joy not unlike that of reading to a child, writing a poem, or baking a loaf of bread.

Then again, maybe I am just a frugal nut.

Recently linked: Appropriately, Cassandra LaMothe, whose cheerful comments I always enjoy, has linked to Recently Banned Literature from her blog, A Bit of Silliness. Visitors will also find a link to her main poetry blog, Caught in the Dawning, in the left column under “Reading Room.” Thanks, Cassie!


vazambam said...

Frugal nut? Perhaps, but there have been other soap shavers who've appreciated the saving of soap during difficult times,notably Francis Ponge who began Le Savon (Soap) in 1943 during the German Occupation of France and finished it in 1965. Cape Editions published an English version (translated by Lane Dunlop) in 1969--an interesting read--and not just for frugal soap nuts.

William Michaelian said...

Frugal Soap Nuts would be a great name for laundry detergent.

Thanks for the Wiki link and recommendation. Fascinating character, this Francis Jean Gaston Alfred Ponge.

Also fascinating is this page on Soap at Stanford University Press.

Someday, I will have to raid that library of yours.

vazambam said...

re "raid [my] library"--by all means, but only if you promise not to wash your hands before or after!!

(Incidentally, we still have large chunks of beautifully smelling olive oil soap that Eleni made five years ago--simply wonderful stuff.)

William Michaelian said...

Olive oil soap — that could be just what I need to maintain my already youthful appearance! I’d love to know the recipe, but of course you might wish to keep that a secret...

~im just only me~ said...

Reminds me of a Carolyn Forche poem I read recently from The Country Between Us:

"Under the sloped snow
pinned all winter with Christmas
lights, we waited for your father
to whittle his soap cakes
away, finish the whisky,
your mother carry her coffee
from room to room closing lights
cubed in the snow at our feet..."

I have a complex about saving food from growing up in a big family and from my grandmother always reminding us of her "toast and mustard sandwiches" which is all they had to eat as children during the depression. She still eats it :)Ill be sad when I can't make it for her anymore... Whenever I go to a restaurant I have to finish all my food, or take it home. Its a good complex I think though, since waste is such a terrible thing. My grandmother calls us the "throw-away generation"...

William Michaelian said...

Thanks for the nice poem. ... Indeed, waste is a criminal act — in things, and in words.