My children give me gifts, often without knowing it. This weekend, I received a pair. Actually, it was a pair of pairs; pants, that is. Two pairs, which totaled a pair.

To further play with words, the pants were paired with a request; one of the most simple, albeit complex, requests I’ve ever received. Can you clean these?

Of course, I can clean them. It’s one of the things moms do best. We clean things because no one else has the ability to detect they are dirty. Except, detection of dirt wouldn’t be the problem here.

These once-white football pants were covered in ground-in dirt of the dried-on mud variety, brown and crusty. From top to bottom, they were covered — and I mean covered — in splashes and splotches of grime that even my 16-year-old son could not ignore.

It must have been quite a messy, rainy, mud-laden game, but I like a challenge.

I got right to work. I started with a pretreatment. Any laundry pro knows pretreatments are key to unsoiled success. I ran the washer on the deep clean, deep water cycle, hot and I waited.

Here are some little known facts about ground-in dirt. Ground-in sounds permanent because it basically is. When something is ground-in it has permeated the fibers of the fabric and must be extracted with force. Apparently, my washing machine did not possess such force because the pants came out of the cycle with 87% of the mud splotches intact.

I was just getting started.

I carried the pants to the kitchen sink and attacked the spots with a toothbrush and dish soap. I use toothbrushes for cleaning more than just teeth, but not the same one for both purposes. Teeth toothbrushes are not laundry toothbrushes. The same goes for toilet toothbrushes, which are uni-taskers for sure. I thought it best to clear that subject up earlier rather than later.

Back to the pair of pair of pants. I scrubbed until my fingers were puckered and raw, but little by little, the dirt succumbed to my efforts and the pants became less brown and nearer to their original white state.

Who scrubs their child’s pants with a toothbrush, you might ask. Good question, I might answer. A parent who doesn’t want their child to be the only one on the field with brown pants, that’s who.

Mud can make us look messy. It is messy and we don’t really want people all up in our messes. Messes should be private or at least invisible. So we scrub, sometimes with a toothbrush, to get things looking white again. We do whatever we can to remove the mud stains from our pants and our lives because mud can creep into places where we least want it. 

Lots of things can be muddy: boots, puddles, springtime, the back entryway, water, the truth, relationships, life, even football pants.

Some people immerse themselves in mud by choice. Some even run in it on the football field.

My son was scheduled to do just that the very next day. That morning, in a triumphant mom moment, I presented him with both pair of clean pants.

“Oh, I don’t need those today,” he said. “They’re just my practice pants. I have clean ones for the game.”

So much for avoiding muddy messes.

Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. More columns are available at the Slices of Life page on Facebook.