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Old Spice
by Frank Chapman
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It is funny how the smallest things can have such a big influence on the individual you become later in life. It could be a smell or perhaps a phrase heard long ago that can trigger and even shape your attitudes and perceptions as you mature.

One of the most significant and lasting memories I have had throughout my life began with the aroma of pan-fried chicken. I can still to this day remember that wonderful smell lofting from our kitchen so many years ago. Many years later when I had left home and was living on my own, I tried to fix pan-fried chicken for myself but the taste and the aroma was never the same. I thought that I had done everything the same but it was not the same. I called my mother to ask for some advice. Perhaps she had a special recipe that she used to make her chicken the best. On the other hand, perhaps it had been that old iron skillet she used. She assured me that I had been doing everything correctly nevertheless it just was not the same. I shared my dilemma with an elderly woman I had met at work and she reassured me that indeed, I was preparing the chicken properly but I had forgotten one key ingredient that made my mothers chicken so special; “Old spice”. Now I was confused. Did she mean the cologne? I was sure that my mother would have never added a dash of cologne to her chicken recipe. She just smiled and shook her head and said, “Someday, you will understand.”

At the time, I was living in Cincinnati Ohio. Being from a small town, I often would spend time walking around the heart of the city amazed by the variety of characters on its city streets. Artisans of all kinds would line the city sidewalks. Musicians, painters, mimes and poets, transformed the streets into a festival of entertainment. I recall watching an older man as he set up his easel and brushes, stare at the blank canvas for several moments seemingly waiting for just the right moment to begin. One could tell exactly when the inspiration hit him for his brushes and pencils seem to come alive in an amazing display creative genius. There in the center of this busy metropolitan setting, he created a wonderful scene of a remote mountain village. The detail was so impressive that I could almost see the trees swaying in the breeze and the tiny trail of smoke dissipating in the clouds from the chimney of one of the cabins. So impressed with his talent, I asked him how he was able to show so much passion in his work. He smiled and simply said, “Old spice.” “Old spice?” I do not understand. “I pray that someday you will” he replied as he gathered his painting and tools and vanished into the crowd. I tried to follow the painter but ultimately lost him in the crushing sea of shoppers and tourists.

Soon I came to a small park where some children were playing. I decided to rest for a time on a bench near the playground. As I watched the children playing, I noticed a young boy and a young girl playing together. They jumped, laughed, and had a wonderful time as their grandmother watched over them. I could not help but notice that when one would fall, the other would help the other up. They would in turn share all the swings and slides and would never treat the other with anything less than care and respect. Impressed by their behavior, I went to the grandmother and complimented the children for their attitudes. Saying that it was so refreshing to see children raised with that type of loving, caring attitudes today. What was her secret? She just smiled and said, “Old spice.”
Once again, I was left utterly confused. What was the “Old spice?”

As I walked through the bustling throngs of street people, those two words kept repeating themselves in my mind. The more I pondered the mystery of “Old spice,” the more confused I became. I no longer noticed the crowd around me nor did I have any sense of time until I found myself in front of a small church. On the marquee of the building were these words. “When the world leaves a bitter taste on your life, add the Old Spice.” That is when it hit me. I understood at last. It is not an ingredient but rather an attitude.

Many years have passed since that day in the city. Life has on occasion, left both a bitter as well as a sweet taste in my life. I am now a father and a grandfather and through it all, I have found that living a full and blessed life requires a lot of “Old Spice.” That “Old spice” defined as love, passion, dedication, commitment, patience, discipline, persistence, faith and understanding, is what my mother used in the care, love and dedication she exhibited every day toward our family. Just the same, as my wife does for our children and me today. It is the passion of the artist as he created a masterpiece or the grandmother as she strives to teach morals, respect and dignity to her grandchildren. A spice, as defined in the dictionary, adds flavor, zest, or relish. Life without the “Old spice” is bland, tasteless, useless and meaningless, void of faith or direction.
So if you find your life lacks the flavor it should, or you no longer find any relish or zest in your world, add the “Old spice.”
Otherwise, just pass the salt.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jacquelyn Horne 08 Mar 2008
What a wonderful, encouraging piece. I enjoyed the reference to "old spice."
Joanne Sher  07 Mar 2008
This is a wonderful analogy and lesson. I truly enjoyed it. By the way, your article has been chosen by the FW Jewelers as general submission jewel for the week. Check out the Cheering Section on the Faithwriters' Forums to see the list, and to get more information. Nice job!
Debbie Wistrom 07 Mar 2008
I like the pictures you gave me of your grandmother and the artist. I felt like I was walking around the city with you. This was very well done. Did notice that sweet was spelled sweat. ;)
LauraLee Shaw 07 Mar 2008
I have some of the same memories! ONly for me it is the smell of Chantilly, which is what my gramma wore. Anyway, I love this sentence: I have found that living a full and blessed life requires a lot of “Old Spice.” That “Old spice” defined as love, passion, dedication, commitment, patience, discipline, persistence, faith and understanding,
Beth LaBuff  02 Mar 2008
I could almost smell the pan-fried chicken.. Then I was wondering too about the “Old Spice”… I enjoyed the “Old Spice” tie-in with your successive stories. Very nice and creative work on this.


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