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Another Day in the Country

Wash your hands!

© Another Day in the Country

My mother was a clean freak!

She wasn’t quite as fanatical as my grandma, Leah Ehrhardt, who we called Mrs. Clean; but she was against dirt.

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” was a favorite phrase of Mom’s and it was quoted when your room was messy, your clothes were dirty, or your hands unwashed. 

“Go wash your hands,” she repeated over and over and over and over.

It’s time for dinner, “Go wash your hands!”

We’re leaving for church, “Are your fingernails clean?”

We’ve just been shopping, “Go wash your hands.”

Did you get all the groceries she’d asked you to pick up? “Go wash your hands. Money is filthy!”

“You know why I married your father,” Mom would often tease. “Because he had such nice, clean hands.”

Evidently, the other boys in her high school class weren’t quite so careful with their appearance.

“I’m not kidding,” she’d add. “It’s important.”

Well, right about now, when even the media is saying “Wash your hands,” I’m really thankful for Mom’s training.

It became a habit to wash my hands; but I must admit I’d gotten lackadaisical about the whole affair of hand washing.

Of course, when I was in California, my little grandson was a stickler about hand washing, especially when you came out of the bathroom.

It just so happens that the bathroom sink is in the hallway, visible to all who pass by, while the rest of the bathroom is behind a closed door. It was a space economy move when we built that house 50 years ago.

Now, it was the ideal way for a child to check up on his grandma to make sure she followed house rules.

“Be sure and wash your hands, Baba,” he’d say.

The simple act of washing your hands wasn’t as easy when my mom was growing up on a farm west of Ramona.

First they had to pump the water from the well. Then they had to haul it into the house, set it on a table, dip some water into a basin, grab the soap, and wash their hands.

Water was so scarce in some households that the hand washing water was saved after it was first used so that several people could wash their hands.

There was no such thing as a free-running tap with hot and cold water then.

It’s amazing to think about, isn’t it? How far we’ve come!

And here we are having the evening news remind us, “Wash your hands!”

The other day, I saw a list of the dirtiest objects that we touch all the time. It sounded like my mother!

Money was on the list. I had to laugh because it seems that everyone these days is using a credit card to pay bills. As I recall the TV remote was at the top of the list. I promptly came home and cleaned mine; but then again I’m the only one who touches it! 

Door handles — both at home and in public buildings — are other big germ catchers. And, of course, phones are on the list.

I can still see my mother attempting to use a public phone one time and she put her hanky over the mouth piece in case of germs. She was always very germ conscious.

Mom was always horrified at people who left home when they were obviously sick. She grew up in the era of the big flu epidemic. Dealing with contagious diseases was still a new science when she was young.

Her family was invited over to a relative’s house for Sunday dinner when someone in the house had rheumatic fever unbeknownst to them, and Mom’s brothers and sisters came down with the bug.

One sister died at 32, because of the side effects of that disease. Mom knew firsthand what germs could do. So, it was natural for her to be cautious.

“Wash your hands,” and “Don’t touch that,” she was always saying.

There are some other things my sister and I learned from Mom.

“Stop eating sugar,” she would say. “Sugar hampers your immune system,” she’d warn, and she was right.

So we grew up knowing that our diet had an effect on our health. I’m always surprised when people don’t know this fact. 

Americans in general need to be cutting down on their sugar intake. Too many people are unaware of all the places sugar lurks.

Of course you know it’s added to most of the drinks you consume, but did you know it’s even in things like canned chili beans? It’s in bread and even peanut butter, things the average person considers healthy. 

“If you’re worried about catching the latest virus, learn how to protect your immune system, use some common sense,” my mother would say.

However, I don’t know if her brand of common sense is all that common.

“Drink lots of water,” Mom would say. “Stay away from anything sweet except whole fruit like bananas, apples and oranges — they’re good for you. For sure, you don’t need that soda pop — even if it is diet!” 

If she were here, for another day in the country, she’d probably bring by some noodle soup and a loaf of homemade wheat bread and then she’d caution, as you sat down to eat, “Did you remember to wash your hands?”

Last modified March 19, 2020

 

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