I found myself recalling an old friend today. I used to think of her often, now not so frequently. But my memory of her inhabits some small corner of my being and from time to time I feel her presence in my life.
Her name was Carol. We first met at Smith College, when we lived in Duckett House, a dorm exclusively for seniors. I didn't know her well, but I liked her shy smile and pleasant manner. Later, she married a friend of mine and I came to know her better. After I got beyond her initial shyness, I found her to be a warm and loving person, devoted to her husband and two children and also to animals. She relished living out in the country, where she kept dogs and a miniature donkey, among other creatures.
I never heard Carol say a cruel word about anyone, though she had reason to be bitter. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and, due to negligent readings of prior mammograms, the disease was not detected until it had reached an advanced stage. Carol's treatments took an enormous physical toll. She was often too tired for socializing, so our meetings were sporadic.
When we did manage to get together, our conversation covered a range of subjects — our children, of course; Carol's many pets; our shared training as lawyers; old friends from Smith. One day, we got into a discussion about life's daily annoyances. I complained of having recently bought a lucite napkin holder with a glued-on price tag. I couldn't get the tag off and became increasingly frustrated. I tried to peel it off with my fingernails. No luck. I took my plastic Dobie pad and scrubbed at it, then added some Soft Scrub to the mix. That got rid of the paper, but the glue was still there, plus I'd managed to scratch the lucite with my exertions. At that point in my sorry tale, Carol broke in. "I have the solution for you — Goo Gone. It lifts sticky labels right off."
Why am I bothering to describe such a mundane conversation? Not to advertise Goo Gone, though it does work, but because this trivial exchange has come back to me many times, specifically every time I have to get something sticky off a surface. When I reach for the Goo Gone, I think of Carol. I remember the unusual lilt of her voice, the waves in her short brown hair. And I'm struck by the power of a simple association to evoke not just a mental picture of Carol but an almost visceral experience of her.
I debated whether to share this story. I feel somewhat ridiculous admitting that Goo Gone reminds me of my friend. But I actually think Carol might have appreciated the connection. She was a person who treasured the small pleasures in life and, especially after her illness, found joy in simple household tasks. I wish she were here now, so I could tell her how I used Goo Gone to get baked-on chewing gum off the inside of my drier. It took about an hour, but Goo Gone did the trick.