When my children were young, I was pen pals with a Russian mother whose daughter was just a little older than my firstborn. I would send to Lena things that she could not obtain in the motherland, especially anything that she specifically requested. Most notably, she asked for a pair of blue jeans. I found a nice pair in Lena’s size and sent them off, hoping that they would go unnoticed by the Russian mail thieves. After she received the jeans, Lena told me that these were so expensive there that the only time people have them is when they are young and engaged to be married. Lena wrote that, because of my gift, “Not only do I feel rich, I feel young!”
Recently, I received a gift that did the same for me, a box of Phebo brand glycerin soap from Brazil, including eight bars of the rose scented kind–which I have hardly been able to find in the US. Before I even had the box open, I could smell that old familiar scent, the one that always takes me back to the apartment in Rio de Janeiro, where my mother and I stayed with an older lady who rented a room to us when we visited.
That rich rose scent brings back memories from my time in Rio: the green and blue tile on the bathroom floor and walls, the vent window in the air shaft, the view from the balcony outside our room, the smell of that luscious coffee in the morning and the scalded milk poured atop it, as well as the crusty bread and soft white cheese that our host served at each breakfast. Once I start to remember those things, many other memories tumble forth, making me smile as I recall the two weeks-long visits to Brazil, which were among the best times with my mother, and the most interesting days of my youth.
Thanks to the friend who sent the generous and meaningful gift, I feel both rich and young.