It was when I was about four and my family lived in a tiny half-dilapidated apartment in the north region of Japan. Having recently become a big sister, I was extra motivated to take care of other people around me. It especially brought me a sense of pride and joy to “help” my mother, who always seemed to be busy handling many tasks.
One evening, I suddenly had the inspiration to wash the dishes after supper.
“I will do the dishes, Mommy!”
My mother was surprised to receive such an unexpected request from me. But once she recovered from the surprise, she gently tried to dissuade me, probably out of concern that I might make a mess.
“That’s kind of you, Sweetie, but I can do it myself.”
“I want to do it!” I repeated my request eagerly. “I will do the dishes tonight!”
Seeing my determination, my mother finally gave in and gave me the permission to wash the dishes. She showed me how to use the water and warm water, handed me the sponge, and washed one bowl as an example. As soon as she finished the tutorial, I told her not to watch me but go somewhere else while I washed the dishes. I wanted to be like a fairy in books that works magic for the person while they aren’t watching.
Once my mother left the kitchen to attend some other task, I started washing the dishes using the sponge and the running water. But I thought something was missing – the soap. Though in my mother’s tutorial, she didn’t mention any soap, I knew from my daily observation that she usually used some kind of soap to clean the dishes.
On the side of the sink, there was a regular soap that we normally used to wash our hands. When I rubbed the soap bar against the sponge, the sponge became soapy, just like what I saw when my mother washed the dishes. I was delighted.
As I happily piled up the dishes I had scrubbed with the soapy sponge, my mother came back to check in. She took a closer look at the soapy dishes and asked me.
“Sweetie, did you use something to make them soapy?”
“Yes!” I answered immediately with pride. I was a fairy who could go beyond expectations to help her mother!
“What did you use?”
“This of course,” I said and showed my mother the soap bar. I couldn’t wait to hear my mother say how impressed she was by my work. Unaware of my thoughts, my mother took a bottle of green liquid detergent from the counter and put a drop of it on the sponge.
“For dish washing,” she explained. “You can use this one instead.”
“It’s called a washing-up liquid.”
I looked at the liquid detergent with my eyes wide open with curiosity. After showing me how to use the liquid detergent, my mother went back to another room to continue her task.
As I washed the remaining dishes with the sponge soaked with the detergent, I was impressed by the way it made everything more soapy than the regular soap bar. I was so impressed that I had now even forgot about being a magical fairy.
“So this is what I use to wash dishes…” I kept thinking.
That was the first time I washed dishes in my life.