Last Sunday, Alex was washing her hand in the kitchen when she called to show me something. I looked and said, “Hold it, let me take photos.” These were taken with my tiny iXus so the resolution and colors aren’t so good but, hey, at least I managed to capture the moment.
The girls played with soap bubbles for years. From pre-school through grade school. Made in China kits were everywhere and inexpensive. Safety of Made in China toys wasn’t an issue back then and there was a constant supply of blowers and soap solutions in the house. The kits came with bottles of soap solution and a variety of blowers that could make small to huge bubbles and there was even a blower that could create dozens of bubbles with a single blow or sweep of the arm. When the soap solution ran out, they could be bought separately sans the blowers.
A far cry from how my brother and I played with soap bubbles when we were young — with home-made blowers and soap solution made with… gumamela leaves.
Okay, first we made the blowers by pestering our Lolo (grandfather) for pieces of wire about eight inches long. We bent one end of the wire to create a loop — small loops for making small bubbles, larger loops for larger soap bubbles. Then, we’d wind strips of rubber band around the loop. Presto! We had soap bubble blowers.
Then, we made the solution. My grandmother had a large garden with lots of gumamela plants. We picked the leaves of the gumamela then we mashed them to a pulp — usually with the marble mortar and pestle which upset the house helpers because the mashed leaves left stains. We divided the mashed leaves equally between two jars with screw type caps (one for me and one for my brother) and add water and a little powdered laundry detergent. We covered the jars tightly and shook them. And that was it.
Why gumamela leaves? I don’t really know. I don’t even remember who taught us that they were an effective ingredient for soap bubble solutions. Mashed, the gumamela leaves are sticky and slimy and they do make the bubbles last longer. And it’s not some secret. Lots of people know about it. Gumamela plants are really, really much more than ornamental.
We don’t buy soap bubble kits anymore but we all still play with soap bubbles whenever we get a chance — in the bath (that’s why I love bubble baths), when washing our hands (makes dish washing more bearable), when giving the pets a bath (the bubbles make pets go nuts)…
Actually, if you’re thinking of a nice game with your dog (or even the cat), try blowing soap bubbles and watch your pet run and jump after them and try to catch them only to have the bubbles burst once touched. It’s hilarious. You can actually see the confusion on your dog’s face.
P.S. For some bits of trivia, Wikipedia says soap bubbles as playthings has been around for 400 years and that “soap bubbles can help to solve complex mathematical problems of space, as they will always find the smallest surface area between points or edges.” There are also links to the site of Louis Pearl, the amazing bubble man (cool pics) and a BBC news report on the world record of the largest soap bubble that encapsulated 19 children over five feet tall.