Ivory Soap & Clean Little Feet

Linda, Wanda, come inside girls, it’s almost dark. Time to get cleaned up for bed,” Mama called from the porch.

“But Mama, we already had our bath,” I whined.

“Yes, but you went back outside to play afterwards. What if something happens during the night and we have to rush out of the house, like to the hospital or something. I don’t want my girls running out with dirty feet. What would the neighbors think?”

She winked at me and Wanda, and we both giggled....

The sweet, clean scent of Ivory soap takes me back to thoughts of Mama and those warm summer evenings. At ages six and four, Wanda and I seldom wore shoes. Living out in the country, we loved to run in our bare feet all day long. At bedtime, Mama was insistent that we went to bed with clean feet.

I stood on the commode lid in our small half bath next to our bedroom. I put one foot at a time into the warm, sudsy water Mama had prepared in the sink. I watched her hands as she gently turned the Ivory soap over in the washcloth until it had just enough soap on it to suit her. She took each foot in her hand and washed all the way up to my knee to be sure all the dirt was gone. Next Mama lifted Wanda on the commode lid and giggled with her as she washed her little feet.

By this time, our eyes were getting heavy. She helped us into our pretty pajamas, and softly tucked us into bed with a prayer and a kiss.

Our Mama’s love was that of a servant’s heart. She didn’t have to wash our feet. I’m sure she was tired at the end of her day. We could have gone to bed with dirty feet. But that was not what Mama wanted for her newly adopted little girls. We were a gift from God to her. She treasured her time with us, even bedtime. We didn’t realize it then, but she was teaching us how to love God, to make prayer time an important part of our lives and to know that we could trust Him with our future.

My Mama’s servant heart was a reflection of Christ to my sister and me. Her washing our feet has always reminded me of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. That one simple act, etched into my memory, has moved me to want to love and serve others well, expecting nothing in return.

What are you etching into your children’s’ or grandchildren’s’ memories? It’s never too late to begin anew. It just takes a little Ivory soap and a clean heart.


LINDA SUMMERFORD is a freelance writer now working on her memoir which is focused on her childhood memories of foster care and adoption. She currently serves on the Lexington County Foster Care Review Board. Linda lives in Chapin, SC with her husband, Richard. They have served for many years with the ministry of Child Evangelism Fellowship.

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