For Jamie Reidy, a certain scent conjures up vivid memories of his father. And he is eternally grateful for the reminders.
It’s not unusual for an aroma to transport me back to high school. I was surprised last week, however, when it happened at the sink in my gym’s locker room.
Growing up, we had single sex bathrooms in our home: my mother and sister luxuriated in the spa upstairs, while my father, brother and I shivered and fought spiders downstairs. By the time I awoke each day, Dad had already showered and shaved. I came to love the ritual of smelling his Barbasol shaving cream in the air first thing every morning. It made me wish for the time when my whiskers would require attention more than once per marking period. (Now, of course, I wish for the time when I didn’t have to shave every day.)
After my workout last week, I showered and then positioned myself at the long basin. Beside each sink rested a clear container with disposable razors and a can of shaving cream. Still cursing myself for having forgotten my shower shoes, I paid no attention to the white foam I lathered onto my face. WHOOSH! The scent hit me, sparking the aforementioned time transportation. I didn’t need to look down to see the red and white striped can to confirm the brand: Barbasol’s original.
I thought of Rich Reidy and how many times I’d shuffled sleepily into the bathroom after he’d finished getting ready. I smiled, thinking of his impersonating his Drill Instructor in boot camp at Parris Island, “Maggots! You got seven minutes to shit, shower, shave and write letters!” Then, I frowned, thinking of the pressures he’d been under as a stockbroker in the fall of 1987, trying to stop the bleeding from Black Monday as his clueless and self-centered senior in high school son refused to consider attending a state college. Did Dad stare at his reflection each morning as he shaved, already stressing over stock prices? More likely, he hadn’t stopped stressing from the day before. Did he see the worry lines setting in like names on a sidewalk?
In the locker room’s bathroom mirror, I could see my father’s face from thirty years ago. I noted my own worry lines, though I have far less to fret over than he did.
I remembered that Father’s Day was approaching. I made a mental note to call him and say thanks. And I gave thanks that I can still call him on Father’s Day or any other. Today, my heart aches for anyone who no longer have that gift.