A Terrycloth Reminder

Lessons From a Pink Washcloth

When I unpacked our suitcases following a recent trip to visit my husband's parents, what do you suppose I found sitting right on top Marc's things? A pink washcloth.

Recognizing it immediately as belonging to his mom, my first thought was "Seriously? He stole a pink washcloth from his own mother?” But that seemed unlikely, especially for Marc, so I considered a few other plausible explanations. I wondered, for instance if maybe it had some sentimental significance. I mean, for all I knew this was the very washcloth his mother used to give him his first bath. Nah, that couldn't be right. It was in too good a shape to be that old.

Next I pondered whether it might have real intrinsic value, you know, like could it have been used to blot the ink after the signing of the Declaration of Independence? Somehow I didn't think so (again, it was the age issue.) Or had Elvis wiped his sweaty face with it and tossed it into the crowd at a Vegas concert? Probably not. Marc's Mom wasn't much of an Elvis fan.

I studied the washcloth carefully, and another possibility came to mind. Remember back in the sixties, when Dolly Parton used to appear on the old Porter Wagner Show? The two of them frequently did commercials for one of their sponsors where Porter would say something like, "Dolly, did you know they're actually putting towels in boxes of Breeze? Here, let me show you.” And she'd gush, "Gee Porter, I cayyyn't wayyyyyt!” Then he'd pull a rather thin terrycloth towel right out of the box of detergent! So I got to speculating. Could this be a relic from that advertising campaign? It was sure the right style and color!

Convinced I'd finally determined its origin, I was just about to snap a photo and list the odd little item on EBay under "Vintage Retro Opry Television Memorabilia” when Marc walked into the room. Holding up the washcloth and wordlessly waving it around as if to say "…and what is the meaning of this?” it was my intention to give him a bit of good-natured grief about it, but before the first wisecrack was out of my mouth he took the washcloth, folded it carefully and ceremoniously placed it right on top of the linen shelf in our bathroom with the following explanation:

"You know how much pain Mom has been in with her rheumatoid arthritis, "he said, "and how worried she is about going into that rehab center tomorrow for several weeks of intense therapy?” I nodded. "Well, I asked if I could borrow this washcloth, and I told her that every time I look at it, I'll be reminded to pray for her.”

Talk about feeling small. I felt like Donald Duck in that episode where he finds a box of cigars hidden under Huey, Dewy and Louie's bed, and he forces them to smoke every last one, to teach them a lesson. Just as the poor little fellows are so sick they're turning green, he discovers a little card attached to the box that says "Happy Birthday, Uncle Donald”! (Okay, so it's not exactly an acceptable plotline for today's young audience.) My point is that I sympathized with Donald in the cartoon, when he literally shrinks down to the ground because he is so ashamed.

Here I was, ready to heap a ton of ridicule on my husband's head for bringing home such a silly little piece of contraband – only to learn that his real reason for doing so was not only noble, it was downright sweet. What's more, after giving the matter some further thought, I realized that that it was also even Biblical.

In Numbers 15:37-41, the Lord instructed the Israelites to sew tassels with blue cords onto the edges of their garments – as a reminder to keep His commandments. In a way, the washcloth was serving the very same purpose. True, that garish square of pink terrycloth totally clashes with the "all white” linen decor in my bathroom (I'm still not convinced it didn't come out of a box of Breeze), but one thing is for certain. I never look at it without remembering to pray for my mother-in-law.

She's doing much better now, by the way. Her rehab continues, but at least she's back at home and beginning to return to her normal activities with much less pain. Some might contend that it's due to all that intense physical therapy, and I'm not saying it didn't play a big part. But Marc and I both know that the real reason has a lot less to do with flexion and extension exercises, and a lot more to do with the power of prayer – brought to mind by the presence of a simple little pink washcloth.

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