Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I slip into the bluemercury make-up store with my cousin Annette and her two daughters, one poised on the precipice of teenhood. We have been strolling languidly down Broadway popping into stores willy-nilly as the fancy takes us.

I have stolen an afternoon from my tightly pressed life to pretend for a moment that I am a lady who lunches; to bask in the girlyness of my cousin and her daughters, my dear nieces that I have spent precious little time with, absent the testosteroned clatter that is my twin eight year old sons.

We know we're not going to part with any money in this bastion of expensive make-up and skin care products, and the salesgirls know this too. But it's a way dead Thursday afternoon and the staff is bored to tears, so they happily indulge us and make-over the girls to their giggling delight.

I glide past the perfume cases, pick up a bottle that looks interesting, open it up and am transported... somewhere, way back in time.

Not a smell I associate with perfume, but rather hot sun, AM radio blaring Crocodile Rock, my scrawny bikini-ed body with sand stuck to it in all the uncomfortable ways and places sand sticks, especially since I'm slathered in... COPPERTONE!

That's the smell! I look up, questioningly, at the sales girl and she smiles. "Is this... ?"

"Yes" she says, "it's been created to smell like vintage Coppertone." Emphasis on the "vintage."  Like me. It's two days after my 50th birthday, she didn't need to rub that in.

She holds up the bottle. That's when I pay attention to the fact that I've just sprayed myself with something called "Beach."

I take the bottle from her, cradle it in my hand for a minute, knowing I'm never going to spend $45 to smell like my thirteen-year-old Jones-Beach-loving self.

But for just a moment I contemplate it, sniff my perfume sprayed arm; close my eyes, feel the sun-sweat start to pool between my just budding breasts, sway to the beat of Loggins & Messina telling me that my Mama don't dance and my Daddy don't rock & roll.

The seagulls keen and try to steal our gooey peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  The waves crash in the background, drowned out by the cacophony of dueling radio stations around us.

My friends slather Coppertone on each others backs and keep one eye out for the boys, who will never speak to us, but we like to think know we're there for them.

We are a young thirteen, filled with longing for things we are nowhere near ready for, cannot even fully imagine, but know that it has something to do with the faintly tingling feeling between our legs whenever they come into our midst to retrieve a tossed football gone astray.

And then the tinkling laughter of my nine year old niece breaks through.

She and her twelve year old sister are cavorting through the store, showing off their glamour to my cousin, who smiles the indulgent smile of a mother of daughters, fondly remembering her own first forays into the world of make-up, and all things grown-up and semi-forbidden.

Cousins attempting glamor, 1973
And then we are back out in the street, onto our next girly mini-adventure.  Something involving chocolate.

All too soon it comes to an end as I drop them off at the subway station. I race back home to meet my autistic son's bus, hoping that someday, maybe someday, he will be able to find himself on a beach playing ball with his friends, buoyed up by the admiration of sweaty, giggling girls he is so carefully pretending to ignore.

This post was inspired by a prompt at The Red Dress Club. This week's RemembeRED assignment was to write a post about a sound or scent that brings you right back to your past.

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