Soaps: watching and washing during social distancing

J. H. Osborne • Apr 26, 2020 at 7:30 PM

Like many of you (most of you, perhaps), I’ve been looking for distractions and little bright spots in life to help pass the time and ease the boredom of being at home when I’m not at work. I have been making a weekly outing to grocery shop, trying to go an hour before closing or early in the morning because I’ve found it less crowded.

I’ve found time when the sun was out to take walks, although I haven’t been able to make it daily. I’ve tried hiking a few times, but the trails I’ve tried have proved to be too crowded to socially distance — unless it’s raining or nearing dark. Otherwise, I’ve watched a lot of television, especially movies, both old and new, on cable, VHS, DVD, and streaming on demand.

I’ve still been working in the Times News newsroom, in an inner office to allow adequate social distancing from others. Some of our colleagues have been working from home. While at home for lunch one day, I flipped the TV to CBS to check out “The Young and the Restless.” I have not watched it regularly in years. But if you’ve ever been a soap opera fan, you know you can miss years of episodes and pretty easily pick back up in a day or two with familiar characters and predictable plots. This time I got a surprise. It was deja vu all over again, as the old joke goes. I thought I’d gone through a time warp for a second. Victor was wooing Nikki. A very young Nikki. I assumed one of the characters was having a flashback. But then the next scene was between a young Jack Abbott, who was telling his (now long dead) father John Abbott he was sure Nikki had put Victor Newman behind her. Meanwhile, the next scene showed Jill (John’s then wife) asking a friend for advice on how to tell John she was pregnant.

It turns out, apparently, the show’s production schedule is off due to the pandemic, so some days they’re running vintage episodes. Both days I’ve noticed this have been Fridays. It’s sort of fun and nostalgic and, well, nostalgia can be comforting. I’d like it better if they went way-back vintage to some 1970s episodes.

So. Soaps. I’ve done pretty well keeping the house stocked with my weekly grocery store runs. There was the whole toilet paper situation, but I did not panic. We’ve had plenty. I’ve kept us in laundry detergent and dish soap. But I kept forgetting hand soap. We had to hit my hotel soaps collection pretty hard. I even used my last bar of Disney World hotel soap. I was afraid I was going to have to break down and use my one bars of Lava for a shower, but I finally remembered and picked up a six-bar pack of my preferred Ivory soap and a three-bar pack of Mom’s preferred Dove (white).

Ivory has been my favorite for years. Its smell reminds me still of being a young boy visiting my country grandparents’ home and washing my hands in an enamelware bowl on a table that sat for years on the back porch near the kitchen door. There might have been other brands of soap there at times, but Ivory stands out in my mind as the only soap I remember using there. The water to wash with would come from a galvanized bucket, drawn fresh from Popie Null’s spring, across the road and over the footlog spanning “the branch.” I wasn’t supposed to cross the footlog alone and never was sent to fetch a fresh bucket of spring water.

I’ve mentioned Ivory and Lava. There’s one other (hand) soap I remember well from childhood: Lifebuoy. Now known to many only by its important role in “A Christmas Story.” But while Ralphie, that film’s main character, had not so pleasant memories of Lifebuoy (it apparently didn’t taste very good when his mother had him hold it in his mouth for using foul language), I remember it fondly. It was Dad’s preferred brand. He kept Lava on hand as well, and we kids were not supposed to use it up foolishly just to wash our hands of plain old dirt. If we’d used up all the Lifebuoy,  Dad would shower using the Lava. I’ve looked for Lifebuoy in the past few years and haven’t seen it on the shelves. I searched online as I began writing this article and found Lifebuoy is no longer produced for the American market. It hasn’t been, apparently, for many years. The website of its parent company states Lifebuoy is the world’s No. 1 selling antibacterial soap and it is sold in 60 countries. “First developed and produced in Great Britain in 1894, the classic red bar of soap and its distinctive medicated carbolic scent was synonymous with cleanliness throughout the twentieth century,” the site states.

I did find several websites that offer Lifebuoy, but at what Dad would consider rather steep prices — and they currently were all out of stock.

So no Lifebuoy for me. That’s OK. The Ivory will do just fine. I don’t have the enamel pan or the galvanized bucket, and the farmhouse and its back porch burned to the ground one Ash Wednesday morning a dozen or more years ago. The spring house is gone. And the footlog, too. The spring is there still. That old table that used to hold the washpan, bucket and bar of Ivory soap? It’s in our living room.





The site administrator has disabled comments for this story.