with Lorelle and Brent VanFossen

The Blue Lake in Our Trailer

A few days ago while cleaning things out, as best as I could without water, I stumbled upon the blue lake. Yes, we have EVERYTHING in our trailer, all the modern conveniences, including a blue lake. Hey, it ain’t Lake Louise (Alberta, Canada) but it is our own tiny lake.

Well, actually, the lake is no more but we have the cleanest kitchen cabinet on the planet.

Gas cans rotting from exposure after 5 years in the sunOne of the reoccurring themes I’m finding, as we pull everything out of the trailer and clean and inspect and toss it, is that plastic just don’t last. That’s right, the modern miracle, plastic, doesn’t hold up when exposed to the elements, inside and outside. The first evidence of this non-permanent state of plastic was found in the red and blue plastic gas and water “cans” in the back of the truck. Totally exposed to the elements for five years, these things have faded and cracked, disintegrating as soon as we touch them. Instead of red, one gas can is a weak pink. All are leaking and splintering into pieces with the slightest pressure.

Cracked plastic fenders or flashing on our trailer after 5 years in storageThe plastic “fenders” on our trailer are called “flashing” and they are dried and cracked, split in places. Bending down to loosen one of our compression tire chocks I hit one of the plastic flashings and it cracked part of it off. I’m nervous about it cracking and flying off as we travel but there isn’t time nor money to replace them right now. They have to be special ordered and we’re on our way to Alabama. That will go on the “to do in Mobile” list.

Inside the trailer, I’ve found all kinds of plastic things cracked and broken. Rubbermaid storage containers that weren’t inside storage cabinets or sealed boxes were yellow and stiff, snapping apart if pressure was applied, like a lid. Plastic containers of cleaning solvents and solutions were discolored and strange looking and sounding when I shook them, so they went into the trash along with the other plastic containers.

Getting down onto my hands and knees to get under the deep and useless cabinets we have in the kitchen corner area, I pulled out tons of different metal and plastic containers of cleaning stuff that were just too suspicious and rotten looking to be salvaged. One of the containers came out covered with massive blue goop. I thought it had leaked right through the containers bottom, not the first to do that in my search. But alas, it was much worse than that.

Deep in the depths of the corner cabinet on the floor level, I found a huge blue lake. It was indeed the color of Lake Louise, a rich blue green reflected from the sky and enhanced by the glacial sediment, but this wasn’t sediment – well, it was but of a different nature. It was soap. About three-quarters of an inch of dish soap.

I guess not long before we left Greensboro to cross the states once again, on our way to Israel, I’d purchased a gigantic 2 liter size of Dawn dish soap. I love the stuff and until I found Fairy dish soap in Israel, there was nothing to compare to Dawn and I missed it terribly. Dawn GETS the grease off of plastic, pots, and everything. Totally cuts it all down to snuff. Love it. There must have been a sale or I’d gotten it at Costco or Sam’s Club or something, but there it was. An huge plastic bottle of Dawn. But there was no dish soap in the bottle.

It had all seeped out through the cracks in the plastic. Two liters or blue dish soap had leaked out and congealed all over the bottom cabinet, spilling into a triangular area of a couple feet of blue lake.

Over time and exposure to heat and cold, all the liquid parts had evaporated and the paste that was left was horrid. I pulled out the rest of the bottle and started cleaning. The only way I could figure out how to get the stuff out was to scrap the lake-paste off and then add water and sop up the rest of the soap.

A plate filled with the scrapings of blue dish soapScraping the soapy paste was easy. Getting it off the spatula was another challenge. It wouldn’t scrap into the garbage pail that was more of the rotting plastic in the trailer, so I finally got a hard plastic plate and used that to scrap the stuff onto. What a mess.

But we do have the cleanest kitchen cupboard now!

The “lake” problems didn’t end there. Yesterday, Lynda Kay and I cleaned hours worth of pots, pans, dishes, silverware, mixer and mashers, and plastics. A lot of the simple dishes I put in the dish washer and hand washed the rest of the things. While standing at the sink, I felt something odd on my foot and looked down to see water and soap seeping out from the bottom of the dish washer. Having put hardly any dish washer soap in the machine since all these needed were a little hot rinse rather than heavy cleaning, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I grabbed some towels and called for Lynda Kay to come save me.

We drained the water out and rinsed things out as best we could, figuring that a little of the dish soap lake had stuck to a few things. I was sure that it hadn’t, but with it spread everywhere, who knows. The suds were finally thinned out enough for the machine to do its job without flooding. What a mess. Now they have a really clean kitchen floor, too.

I wore my rubber gloves for washing dishes and cleaning things as much as I could, but I’m sure I missed a few because that afternoon my hands started turning red, swelling, and itching like crazy. A rash rose up with small welts and I knew that I had had a personal encounter of the intimate kind with the dish soap.

While my allergy to cigarettes is life damaging, my childhood allergy to perfumed soaps has only been annoying. Natural soaps don’t seem to bother me, but put perfume directly on my skin or any perfumed or cheap soaps and unless the spot is rinsed off completely, rash central.

As a small child, my father’s step mother wasn’t very children friendly, having none of her own and only my father as a step child at 12. Just having to rule over my father at any age would have been enough to stress out even the most patient of humans. As a grandmother, Anna Mae tried and did a fair job. She talked to us like adults, for which I was grateful, and not like we were children. One of my earliest childhood memories is of a tall plastic pink poodle filled with bubble bath that she gave me. I don’t know if it was this or something experienced previously, but one use turned me into a rash covered itching little girl. But I wouldn’t give up the pink plastic poodle, so it sat on the corner of our bathtub for years, something for me to look at but never use. When we moved from Lake Stevens to Mukilteo, the pink poodle came with us as one of the few reminders of my life prior to my parent’s divorce. It was a little reminder and connection to my father’s family, though I only think that in hindsight. It sat in the corner of the bath tub, unused and tacky, but hidden by the glass enclosure.

Coming back home years later, I mentioned to my mother how I had grown up longing to pour the bubble bath mixture from the pink poodle into my tub and glory in mounds of white bubbles, but how I had never allowed temptation to risk the repeat of the itchy rash. She laughed and told me that she had dumped out the bubble bath years ago and replaced it with water just in case I had been tempted. She’d never given it another thought. Here, I’d spent years facing down the temptation of luxury over pain. Isn’t life strange.

Decades later, I recall the anger and frustration, and silliness, of the whole thing as my hands swelled up with rash. Brent’s mother covered my hands with some allergy cream and within 24 hours the raging redness was gone.

But memories go on.

Tulsa, Oklahoma

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