VIOLA - Some years ago, if I needed to know something I’d wait until Tuesday at 2 p.m. and ask the ladies attending my exercise class in LaFarge. They had all the answers.
Whatever the topic—whether it was where to get wood, who to call to clean out my gutters, or what to do the next time I hit black ice and had to get my car towed—they had answers for everything. And they knew everything that was going on in town. It was a flawless combination for an entertaining class.
We’d sit on cold metal folding chairs that warmed up once we started moving our bodies and not just our mouths—although anyone could make a case for which one got a better workout.
Reach right, reach left, reach up high toward the ceiling. Stretch. Reach across your body and push. Now the other side. Push, push!
One day, the conversation started out about Q-tips and belly buttons. Were Q-tips made for your belly button or your ears? The majority of the class felt a Q-tip had no place being stuck in your ear canal.
“Say what?” I questioned. I’d been swabbing out my ears for years with Q-tips.
“Exactly,” deadpanned Delores.
The conversation plummeted quickly from Q-tips to cramps. Everyone had an opinion about cramps, mainly leg cramps.
As soon as you get a leg cramp pull your toes back to your shins. No, push your heel down. Eat a banana every morning for potassium. Drink tonic water. Take Epsom salt baths. Use a heating pad. Try Bengay. Take magnesium pills. Put a bar of soap under your covers.
“Wait—a bar of soap?”
“Yes, you sleep with it.”
“Any kind of soap?”
Reach for your toes, hold it. Put your arm on the back of your chair, now turn, hold it. Circle your nose around the face of a clock. Now the other way. Roll your shoulders back.
Class ended, life went on, and many more weeks passed with the LaFarge gals exercising the muscles in their bodies, including the orbicularis oris,the muscle that surrounds the mouth and makes our lips move.
Then one day, I mentioned my bar of Ivory soap.
“Man, my sheets are all crumbly with soap. My bed smells so soapy I feel like I’m sleeping in a laundry soap aisle.”
“You’re sleeping with soap?”
“Yeah, remember the leg cramp talk? I had a few bars of Ivory soap so I threw one under the covers that night.”
Biceps curls—keep your upper arms locked into your body. Don’t curl your wrist. One, two...all the way down to your thighs, and curl back up to your shoulders. Three, four...
Soft chuckles became louder cackles erupting around the room as small conversations broke out. Several of the gals leaned into the ones next to them, smirking.
Trying to defend my sanity and keep control of the class, I continued: “I mean, I already had the soap so it was easy to do. But now, it’s been so long the soap is whittling away from holding it.”
“What?” Delores bellowed. The room quieted down and all eyes were on me, awaiting my answer.
“I sleep with the soap between my legs, or try to—it eventually falls out,” I stammered. “You know, for leg cramps.”
“That would be for birth control, Jane, not leg cramps!”
Belly laughs and guffaws filled the room. I laughed too, but not as loudly, still trying to process where I’d gone wrong. After all, it had been months with me and my soap bar, and it wastheir advice.
Trying to rein in the class, I begin triceps extensions, their least favorite exercise and the hardest.
Put both hands together over your head. Keep your hands facing each other, weights touching. Now, with elbows pointing up, lower your weights to the back of your neck. One, two… Keep going... Twenty-five.
Neither distraction nor the pain of this exercise derailed the conversation about my worn-down bar of Ivory soap. As the clock neared 2:45 p.m. and the class was almost over, Delores spoke.
“Well, did your leg cramps go away?” she asked.
“I never had any. I just had a lot of bars of soap so I thought I’d try it.”
While the class went bonkers, I vowed to throw out the stupid soap when I got home.But the ladies? I’ll keep them. They’re priceless.