It was the fragrance of Sparkle. It doesn’t cure mosquito bites, like Windex in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, but, it does evoke fond memories of my Greek family, especially my Aunt Christina.
It was my Aunt Christina who took me each summer, mid-August, Downtown, to the Loop. In the heart of Loop was that emporium of magnificent merchandise, Marshall Field’s. My aunt knew every floor, every department, every corner of Field’s. Off we charged to the children’s department, then the young girls, eventually juniors, where I would try on dresses, picking out one to buy for the start of school. I loved every minute of our yearly adventure. I cherish those memories now.
Aunt Christina bought be my first pair of nylons, to the horror of my mother, and showed me how to use a garter belt. Do you remember those? She bought me my first princess heals, and I’m sure laughed, robustly, as I attempted to walk in them. My love affair with Elvis was her doing, for a record player with “Return to Sender” was a birthday present, my dad’s turn at horror.
My aunt loved Erma Bombeck. We would phone each other, trying to read a particularly humorous column out loud; failing miserably because neither of us could stop laughing enough to finish a sentence.
Tom always, ALWAYS knew when I was on the phone with my aunt; unless, of course, she got Himself on the phone, for she appreciated his Irish wit.
When I was about 12, I slipped next door to her kitchen, $6 in hand, and asked her if she could buy my parents an anniversary gift with it. The next day she called me over and opened two boxes of glass plates and cups; the little lunch sets of the 50’s and 60’s that ladies would use for parties. Did your mom have them? They were more than $6, though she never said so, only that she put in the money for the tax. My parents were thrilled that I thought of them – but, it was my aunt who made it possible.
So, here I was yesterday, a cloudy day, spiffing up windows and glass tabletops, thinking of Aunt Christina, and the Club girls. When it was my aunt’s turn to host these card sharks, there was a housecleaning flurry. She would call me to come over and sit in her kitchen next door and then start her sales pitch. “Penny,” she would say, “the club girls are coming tonight and I need your help. No one cleans the tiles in the bathroom as good as you do. Will you help me?” Of course, I would. I was the best, after all, at spraying and sparkling those mid-century tiles. Off came my shoes and my socks. Out came the paper towels and a big bottle of Sparkle. Oh, I was good. I was very good, squirting each and every square of her gray tiled bathroom walls, especially those around the tub. Aunt Christina would pop her head in and say how great they looked. Eventually I would stagger out, high as a kite on self-esteem and Sparkle fumes, a few shiny quarters in my palm – and a life-long affinity for Sparkle Glass Cleaner.
I thought of my aunt as I erased fingers smudges on glass – and she sparkled like a star in my heart and mind.