After working a 12 hour day, I was rushing home last week when I decided to make a quick stop at CVS to pick up soap. I was tired and grabbed the first soap I saw.
A three pack of Dial. Original scent.
I don’t typically buy Dial and it has been many years since I had smelled it. While showering tonight I realized just how many years.
Lathered up, eyes closed I catch a whiff of the regular scented soap on my neck and shoulders and I am transported back in time.
“Girl what are you doing standing there bare ass naked, water ain’t touched your ass…”
I can hear my Nana pulling back the sliding glass door of the tub. I see her, washcloth in hand, bending down and soaking the rag in warm water, vigorously lathering the washcloth, intent on washing my 10 year old behind.
“Chile, I told you to take a bath, not stand here singing like a fool, girl your ass is riper than the tomatoes in my damn garden.”
She grabbed my arm and began cleaning me.
“Didn’t your mother teach you how to wash your butt?”
My Nana was a lot like the Della Reese character in Harlem Nights. Everytime I watch the scene when Eddie Murphy tried to apologize for shooting off her pinky toe, I get a little misty. She would have behaved the exact same way.
Emily Law was gruff but gentle. She was hard but fair. She was teaching me the way she knew.
My other arm, stomach, legs, my back and behind were being covered in Dial soap. Her method was fast and meticulous. I looked dressed in a Sunday suit of suds.
“Move your head and give me those ears…”
She dipped the washcloth back in the warm water and a cascade of cleanse dripped down my body.
“Here” she handed me the washrag, “now clean down there.”
I looked down, unsure.
“Clean it girl, you are not going to play beneath this hot Carolina sun then come up in here all past vine ripe rotten. Front to back.”
I cleaned down there.
She took the rag, dipped it back into the water and it seemed like she washed the wash cloth. Handing it back to me she said “Now, you do what I just did, from the beginning.”
I bent down, lathering the washcloth and bathed myself properly for the first time.
She made me do it twice more, until she was satisfied that I could efficiently handle the task.
I recall loving the way my skin smelled after that bath. I slipped into clean clothes and inhaling the freshness of my arms, walked to the kitchen where my Nana was waiting with a bowl of sliced cucumbers and tomatoes soaked in herbs and vinegar.
She stood at the kitchen sink slicing tomatoes for my Pop-Pop. Picking up a tomato wedge she gestured toward me.
“This is a good ripe girl, don’t let your little butt get caught smelling like yesterdays garbage again.”
It may sound harsh to some; but you can’t hear the harmony that was her voice. The brilliant cadence and poetic language. I had a rush of memories tonight and remember fondly my summers in York South Carolina with Nana.
I think I will switch to Dial for a little while.
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