This I Believe

William - Marietta, Georgia
Entered on December 13, 2006
Age Group: Under 18
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People wash clothes in an attempt to erase stains and imperfections. For those blemishes which refuse to be removed, the bottle of bleach on the top shelf of the laundry room is always an option. Capable of wiping white colors, dirt, and debris, it is both friend and enemy. Those stains define the clothing: the time you laughed so hard you dropped your coffee on your lap, the time you fiddled with the pen a bit too much, or even the time you dove to catch that would-be home run ball. The valueless and meaningless imperfections are washed away while those which are stubborn or sentimental remain.

With bleach, only the original remains – no grime, no dirt, no infectious pests, bringing new life into the unwearable. The original, capable of being stained again, degraded again, marked again – rinse, lather, repeat (or in this case, stain, bleach, repeat). But, the bleach itself leaves an even more permanent mark – the mark of starting over. Bleach eventually destroys the things it cleanses. Starting at the beginning too many times makes rags of once wearable clothing.

For about a year after we got our puppy, she slept on my favorite navy blue afghan. A friend made one for us before we left Vestavia Hills, Alabama, a place I hardly remember. But, the good memories I did have were all attached to that blanket. After a short time, it became necessary to clean the smell of dog from the afghan. My mother took the afghan, dumped a few scoops of washing powder into the wash (along with a fair amount of bleach) and turned on the wash cycle. A day later, as I removed the clothes from the dryer, the only thing I saw of my afghan was pink. Pink. Never mind that it was completely clean and fresh or that the Vestavia Hills crest in the center was whiter than ever. The only thing that my eyes would focus on was the putrid, orange-pink color.

I don’t think much about my old town of Vestavia Hills anymore when I see that afghan: I think of a tiny dog who now calls that blanket home. While the bleach only faded the memories of old, it did add a new memory for me to cherish – a memory more profound than any other.

Our bottle of bleach still sits in its spot on the top of the laundry room in the corner specially reserved for “bleach bottle.” Since bleaching the afghan nearly six years ago, we’ve found little use for the blue and white bottle and its contents in the laundry room. When we next want to start again, that bleach bottle waits for when it can once again make blue memories into pink.