I grew up in a family of six. We had dinner together every night, and often played a game that involved the exclamation: “Napkins!” The rules were simple. Anyone at the table could make the call, and everyone at the table would hold up their napkins. Yes, we used actual paper napkins at dinner time. As you might imagine, the conditions of the napkins varied wildly. Some would be crumpled or torn. Some were in pristine condition. Napkin health also varied with the family meal: anything involving ketchup or spaghetti sauce would make for interesting outcomes. The “winner” was the owner of the most intact napkin, but the game was really about family connection. “Napkins” was a shared event, a little jolt of fun shot into the routine of family dinners.
We also washed our hands. I heard “wash up for dinner” before every evening meal. I don’t remember how seriously we took that command. I do recall that my mother had a few of them: “Clean up your room.” “Brush your teeth.” Also: “I love you.”
As we navigate this universal curveball thrown into our daily lives, we’ve all been hammered with hand washing. The when, why, how and how long of the Great Global Hand Wash connects us all. As I’ve spent more time with soap and water over the last three weeks, here are six things I love about soap and water.
1. Soapy Gloves. This is how we taught our kids to wash their hands. We have to thank Elsa from “Frozen” for the idea. “Wash your hands like you’re wearing Elsa’s gloves, made out of soap,” we’d say to our kids. And to ourselves. Sometimes those gloves would go all the way to the elbows. We’ve also had more than our share of water fights around the sink. “Let it go!”
2. My Wedding Ring. As I became more mindful of washing my hands, I took more notice of the only piece of jewelry that I own: my wedding ring. Heather and I were married on August 25, 2010, and I’ve worn that beautiful reminder on the fourth finger of my left hand since that day. Every time I soap up my hands, I’m given the opportunity to see that ring, to roll it around in my soapy fingers and to think of the amazing person that is Heather Morris.
3. My Grandfather. Horton Frank Ide was my mother’s father. We called him Poppop. He was quite a vigorous scrubber. I still may have some towel burns from when he would show us how to wash and dry our hands properly. Poppop knew how to wash behind the ears, under the arms and between the toes. He was one clean dude.
4. Bar Soap. I spent most of my childhood using Dove or Ivory Soap. I can’t recall when soap, once so simple, became complicated, but there sure are a lot of choices out there. Ivory was always “99.44 percent pure.” There was also Irish Spring, Zest and Camay in our house over the years. Like most folks, we use liquid soap now. We are partial to Dr. Bronner’s, but there is still a bar of Ivory in the downstairs bathroom. One thing about bar soap: it helps keep your thumbs healthy. All that rolling around keeps your fingers and thumbs talking to each other, and it always amazes me how precise in its movements the human hand can be. My arthritic, guitar-playing thumbs often disagree with that.
5. My Dad. Patrick Winston Morris was the first person I can ever remember who owned a fingernail brush. The first time I saw it, I didn’t even know what it was. I figured it might be some kind of grooming tool for his military haircut. The fingernail brush is a hand washing bonus. When I use mine these days, I think of you, Dad.
6. The Aftermath of the Great Global Hand Washing. When all this passes, maybe we’ll keep up this mindful washing of our collective hands. Maybe not. I’ll continue to pick up my fingernail brush and think of my Dad. I’ll keep a bar of Ivory soap next to the Dr. Bronner’s. I’ll scrub like Poppop is watching over my shoulder, and spin that wedding ring like I’m dancing on my wedding day. I’ll make soapy gloves when I’m home with my kids, and when I’m alone at the yoga studio.
I’ll continue to wash my hands like I mean it. When the day comes when I can, once again, shake your hand, or give you a hug, I’ll take my time, and linger awhile. Until we meet again, my friends. Stay 99.44 percent pure. And leave a little time to get dirty every day. “Napkins!”