Bars of Soap

Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. Sometimes we refer to it as self induced poverty because the reason for it was my dad getting a PhD. He went to Ohio State, excuse me, The Ohio State University. You know they trademarked the, THE right? Anyway, he did his undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, and he did his masters and PhD at THE Ohio State University.

School is expensive in itself. Student loans, books, but also in the loss of wages. No job. We made do and as a small child I was none the wiser. Because of our self induced poverty, SIP, small things that I take for granted now, and my kids definitely take for granted, I thought were the most amazing things in the world. One example, getting a Happy Meal. This was back in the day when McDonalds Happy Meal Toys were legit. The toys were well made and you could play with them for a forever. Happy Meals in daily life were extremely rare. It could be a reward after getting your shots for school. Maybe for your birthday. The only time we could get them in excess was a road trip. On road trips, we were able to stop at McDonalds several times. Collecting variations in the current toy collection they were featuring. Our favorite toy series was the Barbie dolls. My uncle called them pin head Barbie’s because their heads were so small. There were a few variations. There were also cabbage patch dolls that were fun. Same size as the barbies and had yarn hair.

If we ever got a duplicate on one of these road trips, my mom would go up to the counter and trade it out for a different one. This was also the era when McDonalds had cookie boxes. That is a story for another time though.

Candy bars were also something special. My mom did 2 week grocery shopping. We stocked up and when we were out of something we waited until the next shopping trip. She had the meal planning and snack planning down to an art. If I went with my Mom on the 2 week shopping trip and helped her, which I usually did because as the 2nd out of 4 kid I wanted the alone time, I usually could convince her to get me a candy bar. This was the only time I really got candy. I remember that they were .25 cents. 4 for a dollar. When they went up to .33 3 for a dollar a few years later, we were outraged. Who do they think they are, charging 3 for a dollar for a Hersheys Bar? Oh if only I had known what lay ahead.

The ultimate luxury was a hotel. When I was younger and we were moving cross country, we had to break our trip down into several days. We stayed at Motel 6 at night time and it was the very definition of luxury to me. Whenever I would see those signs, I would get so excited for what was in store for me. At this point it was just three kids. My older sister, myself, and then our third sister who was just a year old. My older sister and I would go into the hotel room and marvel at the beauty. The tightly made beds. The clean vacuumed floors. The TV’s with cable which included the coveted Disney channel. Cable was expensive back then and at home we were limited to just a few basic channels. Best of all out of all the luxuries were the soaps. Not soap operas. Like literal bars of soap. The soaps with the waxy paper wrapping. The soaps that were so fancy that they had the Motel 6 logo actually imprinted into the soap. My older sister and I ended up with a few soaps each at then end of the trip. We would save them and smell them ultimately, while being so careful with them as not to break them. We never used them and I’m sure they’re sitting somewhere in a box of our childhood things in storage.

Life can be good, whether you have a lot or not. There is always something to look forward to, whether it’s the latest McDonald’s Barbie toy, a bar of soap, or maybe if you had more money, a new bike.

I don’t think I have stayed in a Motel 6 in over 30 years, but when I pass them, I can almost smell the soap in the air as I drive by. The memory forever in tact in my mind.


The Legend of Estes Park

There was a story that my uncle used to tell my cousins and I growing up. It was a horror story. Excuse me, it was THE horror story. This story included everything that nightmares are made of.

This story was usually told in Estes Park. You see Estes Park was also the location of this story.

We stayed at a cabin there in the summer sometimes. At night when we were about to go to bed, the story would start.

It was often told when we kids were cuddled up in bed, brave, obviously because we were together. The story included a flashlight on my uncles face with the lights out and usually ended in one of our legs being snatched or grabbed at. Or the flashlight battery “running” out. There were a few times that this story was told closer to the actual location of the story. An old abandoned cabin. The scene of the crime. Or part of it. The last act anyway.

This story starts like all stories do, on a dark cold stormy night. There was an engineer working on some machinery after hours at a factory. The company that he worked for was all about safety and the first rule was, never be alone while working on the equipment. The story is fuzzy after all these years, but I believe the equipment may have required two people. One to press the emergency shut off if needed. This man was of course above the rules, and was working alone that night. The machine that he was working on was a special kind of press that compressed things into cubes. Unfortunately for this man, he got stuck into the machine. Being dragged in and his head being pressed into a cube.

When they found him the next morning, he was alive, but unfortunately had a cube for a head. He was terrifying to look at- they screamed as they saw what was left of his features. One big gaping hole where his mouth used to be. The company knew that this could not get out. And this man was too terrifying to look at, so they devised a plan. They found an old abandoned cabin and chained him to the top floor. If you enter the cabin and listen very carefully, you can hear the chain dragging on the floor upstairs. This was how Cubie came to be.

This story was best told on the drive where we had to pass by his cabin. My uncle would start the story a mile or two away from the cabin and we knew what was coming. We were terrified but also exhilarated with the fear of it all. He would start slowly and calmly, like any old story, but as the story progressed, so did his voice. His timing was impecccable really because we would end up right in front of Cubies Cabin right at the part where he would tell us how he was chained up on the top floor. At this time, the car would all of a sudden stop working. The headlights off. The engine killed. Screams filled the car as my aunt protested telling him to stop scaring us. In the light of the day, we would see the cabin and sometimes even go inside of it. We couldn’t see Cubie though becuase the stairs to the top floor were boarded off.

This story was the ultimate thrill. My Goosebumps books had nothing on Cubie.

When my two oldest cousins and I were early teens, we were on a camping trip for our church. We three shared the tent with three other girls. When it was late and we were telling ghost stories to freak each other out, my cousins and I pulled out our Cubie story. Telling it as masterfully as we could, we were shocked to not see them trembling in fear. They were not horrified, they were not afraid. They just started at us blankly. Maybe they went into a catatonic state based on the pure terror of it? ‘So,’ one of said ‘what did you think?’ One of the girls answered, ‘Wait… so I don’t get it it. Is his head just a cube then?’

It was in that disappointing moment that we realized not everybody is sophisticated enough to understand the true horror of Cubie. That day I learned that the world is divided into two types of people. People that understand the complexity and horror of Cubie, (my cousins and I) and the rest of the world.