I knew I was going to marry Eli when his mom handed me a tub of Mary Kay night cream. Seriously. I absolutely knew in that moment that it was fate, kismet, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, but we were meant to be together.
My grammy always, always relied on aloe as a cure-all. She firmly and religiously believed that aloe could cure whatever ailed you. Mosquito bite? Put aloe on it. Burn? Rub some aloe on it. Dry patch of skin? Rash? Cut? Cheating husband? Aloe, aloe, aloe, aloe. There was more than one potted aloe plant growing reliably on her windowsills, and any time calamity struck, she would simply break off a piece of the plant and slather its ooey clear goo onto the skin of the wounded. There. All better.
Eli's grandmother relied upon her own tried and true cure-all. Her method was much the same as Grammy's, except that her answer for any complaint was Oil-O-Sol. Get the Oil-O-Sol! Insert "Oil-O-Sol" for "aloe" and there you have Eli's grandma's rallying cry. I had never heard of Oil-O-Sol until I met Grandma S. It's a strange tincture that was pulled from the market decades ago. She still hoards a little bottle of it that she's probably had since 1963. Oil-O-Sol!
At home, my mom, like Grammy and Grandma S., had her own go-to product. Mary Kay night cream. It came in a squat little round tub with a pink cap that screwed on. The bottom of the cap was rimmed with a shiny gold band. The substance inside was an oily, gooey stuff with a distinct peach tint. My mother kept it in the top drawer of her dresser, in a tray alongside all the other inexplicable (to my young mind) feminine tools: mascara wands, eyelash curlers, nail scissors, etc. All the accoutrements of her beauty.
When we skinned our knees skating or bike riding, she'd doctor us with Mary Kay night cream. When our lips would chap and crack in the winter, a dab of night cream was sure to heal them. Mom was there with her night cream to soothe us over and over again.
As we grew older, we often chided Mom for her adherence to night cream. We said she was just as crazy as Grammy with the aloe. We turned to Neosporin for our cuts and bruises, Chapstick for our wintery lips; Mom was old-fashioned, out-of-the-loop, and just plain nuts. We resisted her advances when she came at us with the little pink capped tub. Don't slather that grease on me! Noooo thanks, Mom, uh uh, as we shook our skeptical heads.
On my second date with Eli ("date" meaning only that we rented a Stephen King video and settled in to watch it on his parents' couch), I had the worst chapped lips. I kept licking them and licking them, and the soreness was unbearable. I dug in my coat pockets but came up empty. Finally, embarrassed and shy, I found his mom and asked her, stutteringly, if she had any Chapstick I could use. She looked at me with a wide smile and held up her hand to indicate "wait." She said, "I don't have any Chapstick, but I do have something better. Just a minute." She hustled up the stairs, where I heard her pulling open drawers. She came back down, holding out a squatty little white tub with a pink, gold-rimmed cap. She said, "Here. Try this. It's Mary Kay night cream. It cures everything."
I took the tub from her and laughed. I looked at my future husband, and I knew I was home.