If there was one staple in our home, growing up it was blue soap. For those of you who didn’t have it in your bathrooms or sitting on the sink in your washrooms, blue soap was a powerful cleaning soap. The smell of it was beyond potent, like a bucketful of bleach. It could eliminate stains, bring out the best in whites, it was magic.

But blue soap’s magic came at price.

I learned to scrub out my clothes with blue soap from my grandmother, who believed that even her American born child would keep some Spanish Town tips for survival inside her. So on my knees on the concrete that made up the space between her washroom and my grandfather’s workshop,

I’d scrub. I’d scrub until my fingers crinkled like pent up rubber. I’d scrub until my knuckles felt like the bones would rub through my skin. I’d scrub until my cuticles were rolled back and looked like an angry manicurist had attacked them in a heat of rage.

But no matter how my hands looked after scrubbing, the clothes in the bin looked better than ever. They were a different kind of clean. Not machine load, wash, repeat clean- they were clean, clean. Like they sparkled.

I hated blue soap, because of the process it took to get clean. But I’m finding that everyday no matter how hard I try, I run into something that I’ve stained or messed up and need to clean. Scrubbing through pain, regret, disappointment, mistakes- its hard work. But like any chore, it needs to be done.

The first time I had a play date and realized not every family used blue soap to scrub out their clothes, I went home ready to stage a protest. I couldn’t understand why my knuckles had to suffer for some stupid fresh off the boat keepsake of a tradition. My mother commented to me that we used our washing machine to do most of our clothes, but that there were some that we had to scrub through ourselves.

I think one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is that every stain, every situation I find myself in I am there and will only get out with scrubbing. Taking responsibility is one of the hardest tasks, but it’s necessary to cleanse away everything staining the things you wrap yourself in. Being bent over pails of water, scrubbing until my fingers feel like erasers, is not a glamorous work. But sometimes it is the only thing you can do to get your emotional dirty laundry clean.

Today, choose to work through the worn knuckles and rolled back cuticles to get the stains out.  Become clean, sparkling and new.

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  • zy

    this made me smile! lordy, I remember that damn dreaded blue soap. my grandmother used to break that out and i swear it was like punishment. it worked wonders though… memories… lol

  • African Mami

    Whew!!! Talk about a metaphorical readgasm…..I honestly, came in thinking that you were going to be talking about some blue soap and its benefits on our skin or whatever, only to be wowed and BOMBED by the gems you dropped at the very end….Impressed.

  • Coolie

    Yaaay for Jamaica reference! lol. Seriously, that was a really pleasant read :)

  • Adrienne

    Loved this!!! So glad someone else has a fond memories of blue soap!