Thursday, January 5, 2012


Have you ever been carried away on a wave of memory triggered by an aroma? Yesterday I received a late Christmas gift from Sara. As we opened it together, she remarked, "that's it! I do remember!" She was right...that was it! A smell that took her back to about the age of 10, transported me back even further to a time I was a young single mother sharing a home with my daughter, my best friend and her daughter. Together we did the impossible to make ends meet and raise happy, healthy girls.

I did not waste a lot of money in those days, because frankly, there was no money to waste. I was dirt poor, living paycheck to paycheck. Earning little more than what is now about minimum wage and raising my daughter almost completely on my own financially--even then, $25 a week in child support was a paltry sum-- I did have a particular indulgence in a product seemingly exotic and expensive at the time: Vita Bath Plus Shower Gelee. Every few months, I would buy an enormous bottle of this shower gel and every single day, we would all use it when we took our showers. We all smelled so good and so did the bathroom, towels and everything else the gel came in contact with.

I don't recall where I used to buy it 28 years ago, but in later days Fannie bought me a big bottle at Penneys as a gift, and then, sadly, the Plus Gelee went away. You could still get Vita Bath in other scents, but it seemed they'd stopped making the Plus in the purple bottle. Over the years, I got used to stocking up on the inferior, but much easier to find shower gels from places like The Body Shop, Aveda and Bath and Body works.

When I opened Sara's gift yesterday, I was perturbed with myself that I'd nagged my husband into re-caulking the shower that morning. Now it was all my fault that I'd have to wait until morning to bathe myself in memories, but maybe it was worth the wait. After all, I'd waited years to have this precious product in my hands...what was one more day?

Today the smells took me back as I thought about our girls and our time together in that condo. The persistent refusal of my friend's daughter to eat anything more than an apple for dinner (she could be stubborn), or the nights my friend and I took up residence on opposing sofas and read Danielle Steel romance novels until the wee hours. I thought about our collective grief when many years later, my friend's daughter was tragically killed just crossing a street. Memories, like feelings, often come unbidden, but I think despite our challenges of the day, we had some really beautiful times being poor single moms and made some wonderful rocking chair memories.

As I showered today, I thought about my tiny little house by the shore of the Saint Clair River where foghorns from freighters would awaken me, or the nearby train whistle would lull me to sleep. It was then that I'd first started buying this shower gel. I thought about my special young man who would periodically spend the night because the drive home was simply too far and the memories seemed distant, but at the same time like this time was only yesterday:

Each morning, the couple was awakened by her clock radio at the obscene time of 4:45 AM so the young nurse could make it to work--40 miles away--on time. Resistant to getting up, she'd press the snooze button on the radio until the station played Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine's song at 5AM and only then would she drag herself to her shower and use the special gel to awaken her spirit for the day. He would bitch and express disbelief that any soul would torture themselves with a snooze alarm, but now after 27 years together and nearly 25 years of marriage, both fondly recall the song.

Mmmm. The memories smell so good. I could swear that miracle gel makes me feel thirty years younger!


Anonymous said...

That alarm clock, song and the smell of Vitabath, is the reason I proposed..

Miss 376 said...

Cold tar soap takes me back to my childhood, lol. An old lady, friend of the family who taught my mum to cook, used to have it in her bathroom. The smell of it now always takes me back to that house

Brenda said...

Wow...that story of memories was so much cooler than any I have. One day Bob and I were out driving in the country and the smell of mud after a rain, triggered a memory for me. I spent a lot of time out doors as a kid.

Mimi said...

Loved this tale, Rudee.
As I'm sure you know, the memory area in the brain is right next to the olfactory area, so smells are very powerful memory triggers. I learned that in my A&P for Aromatherapy!
You weave a very intricate description of your whole life at that time, fascinating.
Enjoy the gel, I'm delighted it's available again.

Stephanie V said...

I think when there is love even the hardest struggles can leave some sweet memories.
I discovered VitaBath on a visit to my sister. I think it was a forest scent - I loved it!

NCmountainwoman said...

Great post Rudee. That is what it's all about.

Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

what a lovely whimsical post, love this!

smiles, bee

Alice said...

Rainbath . . . hmmmmmmmm

smells and memories.

I live on food smells now that there are so many foods I cannot digest. I go out to eat with family and friends who start out appologetic, but I'm very HAPPY to JUST smell their food and remember, (i'm no longer tempted to taste . . . it's NOT worth the agony).

laurie said...

nothing transports like smell. nothing.

The Bug said...

Aw this made me teary eyed! What a great story :)

For me, that scent is Vicks Vaporub - ha!