When I was in primary school in Japan, at the beginning of each new school term, every student was asked to bring in one dusting cloth from home. In the class of 40 children, after each one brought one dusting cloth, a pile of 40 dusting cloths was formed, which was then used in our daily afterschool cleaning.
I used to love observing the pile of new 40 dusting cloths stored in one corner of the classroom. Not a single one looked like another since each was handmade from a piece of cloth by a family member of the student. Some were colourful, some were thick, some were smooth, and some even had decorative patterns made by the thread.
Most of the dusting cloths were made using a sewing machine except one. Only my dusting cloth was handsewn.
It was my mother who took care of all my school-related tasks at home. Although she enjoyed most of them, this dusting cloth production was something out of her comfort zone. She knew how to do basic sewing, but it was not something she preferred to do. We also did not have a sewing machine at home.
The night before each new school term, with a sigh, my mother would take out two pieces of old towels along with a box of sewing tools. She then sat in front of the TV to embark on my dusting cloth production with a needle and rolls of thread. Watching TV was my mother’s favourite evening activity, and it was her strategy to boost her productivity while doing her least favourite task.
The next morning, I found my new dusting cloth sitting next to my school bag. The texture was rough since my mother used old towels instead of new ones, and the sewing pattern was a little bit uneven since it was all done with her hands. Nonetheless, I felt happy to see my dusting cloth and eagerly brought it to school.
My dusting cloth was outstanding. It may not have shared the perfection and beauty of the others in the pile, but it was extremely durable. When it was time to actually use the dusting cloths to clean the floors afterschool, I saw many of my classmates pick up the one made by my mother instead of the cute, but thin dusting cloths.
“Is your dusting cloth being used at all?” My mother sometimes asked me. “I know others made more beautiful and appealing dusting cloths. Your friends probably like to use those!”
“The one you made is being used all the time!” I would reply, recalling my observation at school. “It’s not pretty, but it’s durable. So, many people like using it. I certainly use it when it’s available!”
That was the story of my outstanding dusting cloth.