Saturday, June 21, 2008

Of Soap and Scandal

I may have told you this before, but housekeeping was not my mother's idea of a good time. She was very careful about germs and keeping things disinfected, and gave me some of my most prominent phobias about such things, but straightforward straightening up was not something that held her interest for long.

When it was announced that company was due, the clutter on the floor and stacked in corners didn't cause her any great consternation. If I expect sudden company, I am likely to rush through the house, picking up stray toys and clothes and hiding dirty dishes in the oven or dishwasher, making the surfaces appear uncluttered and giving the impression that our "stuff" is neatly stuffed away somewhere. My last thought would be to wash the windows or the paint.

But when faced with imminent social obligation, my mother instinctively cried out for just one cleaning product, just one magic formula that would render her home suitable for guests. I will remember the scent of it my entire life. I knew automatically that I would be sent to the apothecary to fetch home a bottle. This master of all cleansers was Tincture of Green Soap.

Tincture of Green Soap was added to buckets of warm water and rags dipped into it were used to wash down the wood-paneled walls and stairways. It cleared the dust, cleaned the wood and left a fresh scent throughout.

It occurred to me only yesterday that I had no idea what Tincture of Green Soap is or why it should be available at the apothecary only. So I had a quick google on it and discovered that it's a soap meant for human skin and has nothing to do with cleaning walls.

Interestingly, I found this quote about the properties of Tincture of Green Soap. One site selling it touted it as being "effective for removal of dried blood and proteins from skin and scalp".

Okay, we weren't the most well-behaved children and it's possible we put grimy hands on the walls or occasionally used a crayon to scribble out some insult or threat against a sibling, but come on... dried blood?

It's at times like these that I miss my mother, because I realize now how many questions I have that will always be left unanswered. I am sure there is some reason she used Tincture of Green Soap on the woodwork. Maybe someone told her that it was effective at removing grease or that it was kind to wood. But I still would like to ask her, with just a hint of a wink, what crime scene she was attempting to cover up?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Of New and Old

I am very proud of my new car, although it is new only to me, having been what is now termed "pre-owned". Car dealers believe that the word "used" carries negative connotations as does the term "used car salesman" so they tend to have only "program vehicles" (used rental cars) and "quality pre-owned vehicles" (used cars) on their lots.

The car is a little hungrier for gas than my last vehicle and quite a lot larger than any other car I have owned - which means my days of zipping into tight parking spaces is over. However, it was time to accept the fact that I had two children in the back seat who, for the sake of undistracted driving, should sit as far away from each other as possible.

I would be inclined, however, to believe anyone who told me that my car was driven only on Sundays by a little old lady who used it to go to church.

You see, yesterday was the first day it was hot enough to turn on the air conditioning in the car. Until now, we have used the heat, the defroster, and played endlessly with the electric windows until the perfect air flow and temperature were achieved in the car's interior.

We pushed the little button with frosty snowflake on it, eagerlyawaiting the first blast of cool air. Next we chose the button that limits air circulation to inside the vehicle, excluding the stiff, hot air from outside. With the fan setting at medium, a wonderful thing then occurred.

Emanating from the vents in the dash was air that was not only cooled and conditioned, but air which filled the vehicle with something that the car had lacked up until that moment.

This is why I believe the former owner must have been a little old lady who rarely drove it. Little old ladies are rarely too warm, and so the AC was likely rarely, if ever, employed.

Hidden deep within my car's ventilation system were the last remaining whiffs new car scent. As it wafted past my nostrils, I inhaled hard and long, sucking in its delicious fragrance. I realized also, that for my generation, that new car smell symbolizes so much more than the age of the vehicle. It brings up memories of prosperous family times, sibling squabbles, the excitement of accompanying dad to the dealership to pick out the new family car and stirs up nostalgia in an unsettling blend of warmth and sadness.

It also reminded me, as I endured the kids in the back seat having ridiculous arguments, giggling for no reason or making noise for the sheer pleasure of making noise, that I was once sitting exactly where they were. And in the natural course of time, they will one day be sitting where I am now. Then it will be that these days which now seem so ordinary and unremarkable will have become part of them, sealed into memory, only to be suddenly awakened by a chance sensory experience.