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I had no idea plain, ordinary laundry soap could present such a problem. For most families, it doesn’t. But, as you dear readers have surmised by now, we’re not ordinary. We’re WEIRD! We can’t even go to the store and buy Brand X Well Known detergent without it becoming a family crisis. Case in point: Gill wasted valuable (expensive) long distance minutes on her phone this week ranting about the purple soap she bought to do her laundry. That’s right…PURPLE soap. I didn’t even know that was A Thing! All I can say is that, if you buy purple soap, hoping to get your whites white, I have no sympathy.

Gill has been (misguidedly) relying on what she terms ‘hippie dippy soap’ for years. I have never liked it since I don’t think it cleans anything…except perhaps dippy hippies. But did she ask my opinion? No she did not. She had to, like any recalcitrant five-year-old, reach the same conclusion on her own. She could not accept my aged wisdom and save herself some anguish…or in her case, itching and scratching.

All of my offspring are delicate flowers when it comes to their skin. If they aren’t scratching at the dinner table, I worry that something is wrong, that something in the universe is off-kilter. One of our favorite after-dinner games is to compare rashes and bumps and see who can draw their own blood from scratching first. L’il Sis usually wins with her scaly, red, inflamed hands. Even Other Brother, who is not, strictly speaking, related to us, proudly lifts his shirt to display his persistent rash. I think it’s a sympathetic rash he developed just to prove he’s part of our group.

For years, I have been using the same laundry detergent. It is a no-name brand that has no scent, no colour, no environmentally toxic materials. It always worked on the kids’ rashes and I could feel moderately virtuous knowing (well, hoping and trusting that the company practised truth in advertising) that I wasn’t destroying Mother Nature. If I was, She was on her own. I have bigger problems. When the kids moved away from home, it was then their responsibility to buy their own detergent and clean their own clothes (except when they brought laundry home to me). That was when it all went off the rails. Do you think they could remember the correct soap? No, they could not. Then came Gill’s irate phone calls:”Ma, my laundry makes me itch! How come it doesn’t when you do it at home?”

“Ah, dear child of mine, it’s a mother’s Secret Laundry Gene. I told you, all those times you questioned my ability to clean clothes, when you complained about shrunken sweaters, that you’d be grateful one day. Now the chickens have come home to roost.”

“Very funny, Ma! How much penance do I have to do? If we were Catholic, I could go to confessional and say a thousand Hail Marys (you know, the football move).Will you please tell me what detergent you buy?”

I thought about having her issue a sworn statement that she had maligned me about my laundry skills in the past and she now recanted everything. I could tape it to my front door. But, being the sweet, forgiving, non-grudge holding mother I am, I let it drop. “Tell you what,” I said. “My birthday present to you will be a large box of my detergent.”

“That’s it? That’s all I get for my birthday?”

“Karma’s a bitch…”