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Archive for March, 2010

Once my husband started ordering from infomercials there was no stopping. To his credit, he watched many more—to the bitter end—than he responded to. My shelves, though, are testament to the fact that he did respond on more than one occasion. On many birthdays and Christmases I’d unwrap a gift I knew well from hearing the excited users on TV. So I would be excited and reluctant all at the same time. After all, Jerry had pictured me using these marvels of science, and I had to follow through.

I’m not sure which was the gateway drug, but probably the “storage system” complete with containers and a turntable. Never search for the right container for your leftovers again, nor the lids. Just spin and you would find them. Ha! So I put them to the test. That was years ago. They are still up there making each day easier exactly as advertised.

Surely the GTX-press Jerry ordered next would not live up to its billing: quick, perfect eggs, leftovers wrapped in a tortilla and made into a healthful dinner, angel food cake with fruit in the middle, etc. all in about three to seven minutes. Come on! How often would I drag out an appliance to do one of these things anyway? A lot! Again, except for the propensity for the Teflon to peel a bit, it was perfect and is indispensable in my kitchen.

Jerry also responded to fantastic promises in catalogs. We all know flower catalogs should be sued for false advertising, but after years of restraining himself, Jerry ordered a “carpet of flowers.” When it arrived he cut a small portion to test and followed directions to the T. Did we have a carpet of flowers? Yes and no. A few varieties came up, but most vigorous was the verbena. It eventually made a verbena carpet and we loved it. Verbena was my mother’s favorite flower, so we always knew she had orchestrated its insidious march through our garden.

Walk though my house and you’ll see item after item you’ve seen in catalogs: Galileo’s temperature gauge, little German boy and girl that pop out and foretell the weather, elegant, domed barometer, solar waterfalls, gargoyle cats, and the list goes on and on. I treasure them all.

Did I ever call a halt to a purchase? Yes, yes I did. Twice. For a Lifestyle neck lift and a “slimmer” undergarment. Jerry was genuinely puzzled with my attitude—and I did have an attitude. Those are the two times I said, “BUT WAIT!”

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I’d be a terrible eye witness, but quite a good nose witness. You could blindfold me and drop me in certain spots and I’d know exactly where I was by the smell. Wouldn’t you? Some memories fade and morph into barely truthful incidents, but not olfactory memories. They remain as sharp and precise as this morning’s coffee. Just the whiff of a familiar scent can replace the present moment with one from long ago.

If one of those buildings you dropped me in was the Rialto Theater in my home town in Texas, I’d know. I’d smell popcorn, cherry coke and an explosion of peppermint gum from dating couples. But most powerful would be the scent of cool “refrigerated air.” The fifties was a time when most restaurants and drug stores had only fans and screened fronts to welcome in and stir the hot Texas air. So “20 Degrees Cooler Inside” was a lure with a palpable scent.

If I say Blue Waltz perfume and your nose doesn’t curl in disgust, then you never smeared it behind your ears and on your wrists. But if you did, I’d know. Oh, I’d know. It sold at the local dime store along side Evening in Paris, which purportedly came from France. If it didn’t, they definitely have grounds for a defamation suit.

Let me catch a whiff of a barnyard and I’m back on the plank walk above the stock pens the night before the auction. I’m on Daddy’s heels as he points out especially noteworthy animals. There were always impatient bulls, Angus, Brahma and Hereford mostly. I never let them out of my site lest they scale the heights. The strange legacy these nighttime walks left me was an affinity for stockyard smells. Which only goes to prove, I suppose, that parental attention is so powerful it can glamorize cow poop.

The pungent medicines and potients of the day are especially vivid. Of course there was Vicks Vapo-Rub and castor oil, the springtime tonic. I don’t know about other families, but we relied heavily on a brown bottle with a most unforgettable scent: Dr. J. H. McLeans Volcanic Oil Liniment. If it sounds like snake oil sold from a wagon, the picture on the label left no doubt. Mother used it to cure everything from growing pains to insect bites and cuts. Ouch! It smelled and felt like turpentine (with good reason). I have a bottle in my medicine cabinet today. My husband bought into my mother’s miracle cure and had her ship bottles to him from Texas so he would always have it on hand. So if I should lose memory of that scent all I have to do is open a bottle. Just having it in the house and smelling it cured many a childhood ache, so what can it hurt to keep it as my magic genie? Scents are that powerful.

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