Downy’s lavender and vanilla fabric softening sheets reminds me of home.
Well…it used to at least, which is why I loved it so much.
Now it reminds me of coming home to Kuwait from the dirty and dangerous roads of Iraq.
Thanks to my mom, I never ran short of those wonderfully-smelling sheets during my year-long deployment.
Whenever we started the haul back south to Arifjan, I looked forward to three things: a mangled, metaled mess of what I’m assuming used to be a steel light pole of sorts, oil refineries lining the way to S-POD, and my Army green laundry bag with the lavender vanilla fabric sheets waiting inside.
The wrecked utility pole let me know that I was only 30 minutes away from the border. It was a visual reminder that I was still wandering no-man’s land…but that I was oh-so-close to being able to tear off that extra 16 pounds pulling down on my shoulders and take off that additional three pounds pushing my head into my neck.
Twenty pounds lighter and my M16 stowed away on safe, my senses always sat up a bit once we crossed into Kuwait. My nostrils always waiting patiently for the scent of rotten eggs to lead me to the twinkling stars of the ships waiting to be unloaded at SPOD (Military Sea Port of Debarkation.) Somehow these oil refineries never seemed to spoil my senses the way the ones in Iraq did. I think it was because I knew these distinct smells of sulfur and skunk meant I was oh so close to home – to my tented up bunk bed, to a day or two without the extra ballistic weight, and more importantly to the sweet smell of lavender and vanilla.
It wasn’t so much of a ritual as more of a mandatory check list that I ticked off as fast as my feet would take me. We would roll truck number 33 into it’s stall in the corral, do the speediest PMCS (Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services) we could without making it look like we just breezed by, unload my road gear from my truck to my back, turn in my weapon to the armor connex, and range-walk my ass as fast as I could to my tent and the wonderful green bag waiting to be filled with dirty clothes.
Most times I would open the purple box to smell home while I jammed a week’s worth of sweat stains from my sand-coated road bag to my laundry bag – feeling the grit fill up under my fingernails with each transfer of a hand full of crusted clothes.
I always looked forward to laundry day. I couldn’t get enough of the purple box while I patiently waited for my clothes to dry. And now, home for almost ten years…I still can’t get enough of the purple box. I’ll try different scented laundry detergents with every needed refill….but I have never swayed from my lavender and vanilla sheets. Now it reminds me of my home away from home. Of the times I made it through the long hauls, the stuck trucks and the year of sweaty, white-lined brown tee-shirts.