36: Guest Treatment

36: Guest Treatment

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Time to Thrive

Guest Treatment

You’re worthy of it all. You just have to believe you are!

~Tony Gaskins

My mom had guest soaps in the bathroom. In a home with very few luxuries, those tiny roses of avocado green and lemon yellow represented something special to her; they were something she wanted to keep nice for our guests. So she kept them in a covered glass container, where they would be safe from the many sets of little fingers in our household that needed washing. Only the guests never used them. We never used them. Those soap rosettes decorated the shelf in the bathroom for as long as I can remember. There they stayed, displayed until dust caked in the crevices of the soap petals, and the roses lost their luster. But they were never used. They were saved for guests.

Fast forward to my adult married life. We were visiting my in-laws when the marriage was still shiny and new. New traditions, new family members, and new relationships were just beginning to be forged when I received the gift. It was casually given. No big deal; everyone got one. It was just a bar of soap, a chunk of green marbled glycerin, lightly scented and wrapped in cellophane with a lovely label proclaiming that this soap had been handcrafted by an artisan who just happened to be my new brother-in-law. That soap was only a few ounces, but I carried the weight of it for years. It was guest soap.

It was too pretty to use. It was proudly set out to be looked at — but not used — for about a week. My practical husband did not see the point of it cluttering up the countertop. So it found a new home, wrapped and cushioned, set aside in my scarf drawer. There, its gentle scent would drift between the layers of nylon and silk, and waft up to greet me when I opened the drawer. With its cellophane wrapper and label intact, that bar of soap was a hidden gem that gently reminded me of nice people and nice things whenever I saw it. My life went on. My children grew. An empty childhood bedroom became a craft room, and in this newly created space there was a glassed-in display shelf — a place for the soap. It found a new home.

I loved my craft room. Bright and sunny, soft and cozy, it was filled with quaint furnishings and things I cherished. When I got sick, the craft room became my recovery room. I could rest there surrounded by happy memories. As I got better, I took inventory of my life, and of my surroundings. And, I saw the soap.

I saw something that was meant to be used, not admired. Long ago it was given to me, a simple gift of special soap. Except that I had decided I wasn’t special enough to use it. Cancer changed that. I took that carefully wrapped soap off the shelf and opened it with a sense of childish delight. The scent was as lovely as I remembered it to be. However, without its wrappings, the glycerin was rather dull, and as I stood there with that hazy chunk of soap in my hands, I wondered what all the fuss had been about. Then I ran it under water.

It was transformed, and so was I. The running water turned the soap into a shining jewel in my hands. The surface became slick and the colors gleamed. The irregular angles gave texture to the glycerin rotating between my palms as the suds slipped through my fingers. A regular bar of soap does not feel like this. No, this was something different, something special. So I took my time, savoring each sensation, totally immersing myself in the moment. As I concentrated on the bubbles building between my hands, reveling in the feel of the flowing water over my skin, the ritual of washing my hands transformed into a meditative experience. I let it all go. I felt my troubles washing away with those tiny bits of foam. It became a small moment of pure joy. My heart was at peace; I felt pampered and loved. After all those years, why had I been waiting to use it? I was waiting for me.

Cancer was an unwelcome visitor in my life, but it taught me to live. So, from now on, I will use the guest soap. And while I’m at it, I might as well use the good towels, too.

~Paula Klendworth Skory

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