In my teens, I was really into vanilla soaps. I’d buy them whenever we were travelling, as little, usable souvenirs. I’d receive them from my friend whose aunt made them (and always knew to pick out the vanilla-y scents). Though, living at home I wasn’t in charge of the soap, and sharing apartments with fellow students meant that there was usually a cheap bottle of liquid soap (bought along with cheap toilet paper from the bottle recycling money we’d collect after parties). My vanilla soaps belonged to some swanky future of grown-up me living in my own apartment.
Moving to John in Chicago and setting up our first apartment together was it – I brought my entire collection of 5 carefully curated and saved bars of vanilla soaps with me. We finally did use them, and the bathroom always had a soft scent of vanilla associated with it in some form or another. We travelled to his sister in Vermont and came across a farmers market stand with giant bars of locally made soap that smelled better than any bar of soap I’d ever sniffed. So we bought some of those too, and thought of summer in Vermont for months and months to come whenever we used them.
When we moved to Norway last fall, I brought back at least one bar of soap that had gone unused for three years. This fall we also came home from a family visit on the East Coast with beer soap from a favorite brewery (and now has the top place for awesome-ly smelling soap), and several bottles given to us by an aunt that runs a gift shop. Most recently, in Italy, we stopped by the neighbourhood winery to grab some bottles of wine, and were awarded a bar of soap (made with wine of course). I think it was because we’re foreigners. These soaps have started a new timeline; they’ll become the soaps belonging to Norway, the soaps that we used in our cute little cabin-like apartment overlooking the city.
Beer soap from Dogfish Head Brewery, and wine soap.
When I carefully picked out a brown, smooth, vanilla scented bar of soap in Germany ten years ago, I didn’t know that Soap would become a way to tell time, to keep memories, a litmus test (using the vanilla soaps? We must be grown up!), a constant reminder of travels and experiences… but I’m glad it did.