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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Scent of a Grandma

Earlier this week, we ran out of bath soap.

The bar that had been on the soap dish in the shower had grown gradually smaller until at last it was a translucent and paper-thin reminder of its former self. When I went to the linen closet to get a new bar of soap, I discovered that it had been our last. Already in my bathrobe, I shoved aside washcloths and bottles of shampoo in the hopes of finding a stray bar somewhere on the shelf. Success! There was a Dove bar pushed to the back of the shelf, purchased a long time ago with some coupon or other. Into the shower with me it went. And when I turned on the water, what washed over me with the scent of that bar was a wave of memories.

Have you ever noticed how powerfully a smell can convey memories?

Dove soap was Grandma's bathroom soap. I remember her using many different products, but Dove must have been the bar of soap she kept in her shower, because as soon as I lathered some in my hands, I was ten years old again and having a "sleepover" at Grandma and Grandpa's old house in Morgan Ranch.

A sleepover, of course, meant a shower with Grandma's soap and shampoo, drying off with Grandma's towels, and then sitting at the kitchen table with Grandpa while my hair dried. These sleepovers didn't necessarily serve a practical purpose -- although occasionally we might stay with Grandma and Grandpa if Mom and Dad were away for a day or two -- but sometimes I'd spend the night at their house just for fun. Even though they lived just twenty minutes from our house and we saw them frequently, I relished the extra attention when it was just me, Grandma, and Grandpa.

The Dove bar smelled of pastel bath towels fresh out of the dryer and still warm, of Grandma knocking at the bathroom door to see if I needed anything, of Grandpa snoozing in his armchair when I finished my shower and came out to the living room with pink cheeks and damp hair.

It was a reminder of the breakfasts we'd have together on those leisurely mornings. Sometimes it was eggs and toast, or a bowl of cereal with milk if I was up particularly early and Grandma wasn't awake yet. But my favorite was Grandpa's waffles topped with ripe strawberries and smothered in freshly-whipped cream with a side of bacon.

The Dove soap smelled like curling up in the recliner in front of the TV and watching the morning news with Grandpa, covered in a blanket not because it was ever chilly in their house, but because blankets make mornings cozier.

One whiff of that soap, and I was slipping between soft white sheets and tugging Grandma's blue guest bedroom quilt up to my chin, looking up by the light of the blue nightlight at the picture of my Dad as a little boy that hung above the bed.

While objectively I am not particularly fond of the perfumed scent of that Dove bar, to me, it smells of a freshly-showered little girl. It smells of happy childhood memories. It smells of family.


  1. Thank you for sharing the memories!

  2. What a lovely post. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Simply beautiful.

    My brother now has the wall clock that hung in our maternal grandparents' home when we were kids. Every so often, when I talk to him on the phone, I hear it chime and am immediately transported to Elizabethtown, PA in the 1980's/early 1990's and overwhelmed by a flood of memories.

  4. Sarah! What a wonderfully heartfelt and touching memory. Your word pictures so accurately describe what you felt, both then and now. Thank you, so much, for sharing this memory with us. I feel certain that from now on, whenever I catch the scent of Dove soap, I will think of this special memory you've shared.

  5. My grandmother also used Dove soap and when I smell it, it also takes me right back to her home and the memories of sleeping over there. Thanks for sharing! She made brown butter scrambled eggs and McDonald's---her own hamburgers and vanilla milk shakes. She has been gone since around 1979....wonderful to remember the past!
    Jennifer aka gigi