抹布頌 In Praise of Rags
Every month I commute between Singapore and Taiwan, juggling family duties and work. Whenever I return to Tainan, the part-time students who work in our restaurants would always welcome me with a little “gift” – a full bag of dirty rags or mats. I would take everything back to the laundry room at home and divide them up for soaking. Then, under the brilliance of that southern Taiwanese sun, I would lay them out one by one to enjoy a sunbath. The laundry room provides an extension to the joy I feel in the kitchen, for even the dirtiest rag could shed its stains in my white-brick sink. I like experiencing the happiness of a traditional lifestyle that stems from simple labor.
The rags are crisp after sun-dried, with freshness impossible to obtain using a drier. I would set up my old-fashioned yet sturdy ironing board to iron out every plain or checkered rag, and drop them off at the Chin-Jong and Kai-shang store afterwards. Before I bag them again, I would always take a good look, wondering if these hand-washed and ironed rags would emit a glow of my thoughtfulness for the stores in the days when I am away.
I have known the various benefits of rags since my childhood: not only do they assist us in wiping clean many adorable corners, but rags are also ornaments in the kitchen where they add the ingredient of fun. I have lots of rags: white cotton ones sewn with cute little patterns for drying hands in the bathroom, all sorts of checkered cloths that come in difference sizes for padding containers as they dry, puffy water-absorbing towels in the kitchen to wipe hands with, as well as snow white pieces of unwoven fabric for cleaning stoves and cupboards. Each rag assumes its befitting job, so in cleansing they must be separated into different buckets for soaking. This way, a rag can often be burdened for many years and still look marvelous! Most of all, I believe all the happy times I put in for my family and career are preserved in those squares of textile