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  • Writer's pictureJayne Lisbeth

Carpe Saponem

Seize the Soap!

A friend of many years advised me as I was exploring gift ideas for my women friends:

“So, what’s so hard about buying a gift for a woman? Candles, soap or jewelry are always your best choices.” Her words returned to me as I examined my soap and towel laden bathroom shelf. The shelves contained not only soaps but also glass ornaments and china. This display was just another excuse for me to decorate a corner of our home.

Soaps cozied up against my favorite fluffy towels, carefully sculpted into tight rolls. I admired my glass dishes, fairy sculptures, a Snow White Bubble Bath bottle, shells and soap. Lots of soap. The thought returned to me as it did every time I examined my collection of soaps. Jayne, what are you waiting for? As always, I shoved the thought away with disdain. For the last sixteen years I have lived in and decorated this house. I have filled my shelves, my walls, with art, glass, candles, and soaps.

Guest Bathroom Art by Jessie Wilcox Smith

I examine and caress the ovals and sculpted vessels of scent. They are too beautiful, too rare and too special to use. From the French milled soaps to the Asian Mandarin Lemon Verbena, to the Tarpon Springs Olive Oil soaps I have purchased as gifts for my friends.

Jayne, what are you waiting for?

I love these gifts of luxury and sentiment. As I examine each beautifully packaged bar of soap, memories arise. Will these memories evaporate in the scents and bubbles when used. I picked up each reminder of the friend who had gifted me with this treasure.

The largest box was a yellow oval container with Mandarin printed in delicate calligraphy across its surface. “Hi, Bonzo,” I greeted the soap as I removed the lemon scented bar from its lovely container. I held the heavy oval in my hand, and the scent brought me back to our shared past. I still can’t bear to use that luminous bar of Lemon

Guest Bathroom

Scented Mandarin Soap. It glows with memories and the many scents of our intertwined lives. I opened the beautiful box and inhaled its scent, but I am unable to gift myself the ovals and bars of loveliness.

I am saving this treasure from Bonnie, a.k.a Bonzo. Would she have wanted me to refuse the indulgence of her beautiful Mandarin oval of lemon verbena? Would she not have wanted me to revel in its scent, luxuriate in its creaminess, relaxed in its all encompassing sensual bathing pleasures, with Mandarin as my companion? Would she have wanted me to deny myself the pleasure of her gift? I hear her voice,

Jayne, what are you waiting for?”

My dear friend Bonnie had given this gift to me twelve years ago, two years prior to her death. No one had expected Bonnie to die, ever. She had been so vibrant, so funny, so unfailingly witty. Her Mensa status was one she never bragged about.

Three's a Crowd, by Mishelle Swartwout

And here was this Mandarin oval of scented luxury she had gifted to me,

reminding me of our life-long ties. Bonnie and I had worked together at Woodstock Country School in Vermont in the early 70s. She made our office raucous with laughter. No one could look more innocent than our Bonzo when confronted sternly by the headmaster of the school, who we had nicknamed the Chipmunk for his appearance which matched that creature. The chipmunk always backed off in the face of Bonzo’s innocence.

My eyes wander down the shelf to the box of Lilac scented French milled soap from the same friend who told me, “Just gift soap. Every woman will love it.” She knew that lilac was my favorite flower, my most beloved scent, which was almost impossible to replicate in a soap ten years ago. I opened the box and lilacs brought me home to Vermont, New York and New Jersey. I was transported in lilac perfume to my past. Nope. Couldn’t erase that scented memory. Gently, I cocooned the soaps back in their home and placed the box back on the shelf.

I move to the lower shelf of sacred soaps. I laugh at myself that the three boxes of Vermont Girl Farmers Soaps are empty. I couldn’t bear to throw away the boxes, but the soaps were a happy indulgence. I can replace these Farmers Girl soaps on my next visit to Vermont where my other family resides. I know my dear sister and my adopted daughter will grace me with more gifts of Farmers Girl Soaps. These, I can use. And have.

The most recent addition to my house of soaps is a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter. It was a welcome surprise of “Ocean” soap, bath bomb, body butter and hand cream. Clearly, my daughter understood what mothers love most. Luxury, baths, creams and relaxation. I indulge in my daughter’s gifts of body butter and creams. I do not unwrap the Ocean soap.

Jayne, what are you waiting for? I ask myself, yet again.

I held Bonnie's Mandarin soap in my hand. I sink below the ocean scented bath bomb bubbles. I rub the soap over my relaxed, hot, slick body.

I thank Bonzo, my family, my dearest friends for all your gifts of soaps, candles and jewelry. I never felt worthy enough to unwrap these soap gifts. I was always saving them for a special day, when I deemed myself ‘worthy.’ That day has arrived.

I am no longer waiting. Carpe Saponem. Seize the soap. Carpe Diem: seize the day, and life.

My deepest thanks to all my beloved friends and family who told me years ago that I am worthy of these special tokens of their love. I am no longer waiting to celebrate these gifts, memories, and life.

Carpe saponem. Carpe diem. The time is now.

Birthday gift from Bonnie

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May 30, 2022

This is such an important message. Shortly after my mother was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, she said, "I wonder now if a part of me knew, for I started using my sterling silver flatware everyday a few months ago."

I do the same things with clothing- holding out my "good clothes" for that special occasion. Now with the pandemic I make myself wear my good clothes to just hang in the house.

Loved your writing, Jayne.


Dr Greg LeSar
Dr Greg LeSar
May 30, 2022

What a way with words Jayne, so beautiful. We can smell the smells and feel the warmth of your memories. Your write with courage and grace.

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