Dirt was always my grandmother’s enemy. Mary Louise Deller Knight could never tolerate a child with a dirty face or a runny nose. She always said that under her watch I would never look poor or uncared for. When you walked in the house graced with dirt and she spotted it– you never ever pulled away. Even if you thought it wasn’t there, trust me Grammy Knight found it.
I was never the neatest kid in the world and I’m still a messy eater. I don’t think I was ever around for hand to mouth education. There isn’t a meal where I don’t drop something on me and my husband agreed while I was writing this– so no wonder she was busy all the time scrubbing my face and various food spots on my clothing.
Thankfully she was not like some parents I had seen who would have their kids stick their tongue out and then their mothers would dab it with a napkin or tissue. Then there was the dreaded spit thumb which thankfully I never saw. The worst was when I was with a school friend and Grammy tackled something on my face she didn’t care for. I remember that particular friend telling everyone at school what my grandmother did— so I responded that she got her freckles from standing behind a cow when it pooped on a rock.
My mother was nowhere as bad as my grandmother and at least she used a damp washcloth, but my grandmother had the enthusiasm of a carpenter sanding a large two-by-four. To this day, I would swear that I have one less layer of skin because of her. I am so pale and glow in the dark thanks to my grandmother and her persistent scrubbing.
My grandmother like myself always had something to clean with. I have heard people tell me they always will remember me having a tissue in hand or always able to pull one from the sleeve of any garment. I learned from my Grandmother that it was a necessary life accessory and sometimes Grammy stuffed her ‘cleaner’ in her corset bra.
People of a certain age will all have one distinct memory that no self-respecting lady of any age ever left the house without a hanky tucked into her purse, a dress pocket or her cleavage. Goodness knows, one couldn’t be seen putting a finger anywhere near one’s nose without a hanky.
Really a bit of spit on a hanky never hurt us, but there had to be some health and safety regulations about this horrible habit. Wasn’t there? All I know is in those days there wasn’t an antibacterial wipe in sight! According to my Grandmother I was given life out of my mother’s intestines (?), and the salvia/hankie ritual wasn’t going to kill anyone.
Did these “unsanitary” actions help us build our immune systems?
Now they run around with antibacterial this and antibacterial that and kids have colds, flus, pneumonia, and other illnesses that only have letters. I read there was a new cleaner called Mom’s Spit and that it was great for faces, necks, clothes, shoes, floors, counters, bathrooms, automotive degreasing and more. I thought it must be amazing, and then I found out it was just a funny ad for 409.
In 2018 news reports from KXAN in Texas reported that mother’s saliva helped stop allergies and people argued that kissing your baby too frequently could pass on a mother’s oral decay. In the 50s and 60s mom or grandma’s spit was an all-in-one cleaner and we never thought anything about it. It was always on hand in an instant for dirty faces, Formica counters, mirrors and even spit shined shoes. My grandmother always warned me however if you were going to spit clean like she did, never spit up because whatever goes up always comes down.