Saturday, July 16, 2011

The reason I remember Toni

What are five things most people don’t know about you? That’s the question my friend Keiki asks authors she features over at The Vessel Project. The question sent me rooting about in the place of long-forgotten memories, and I was surprised at some of the things that surfaced.

Toni perms.

I don’t know if any of you ever heard of one. The first thing that pops up on a Google search is “Why did they stop making Toni home perms?” One answer claims it was because they burned, but I know the real reason. They stunk.

Apparently my mother thought tight little ringlets looked better than my stringy, straggly hair. Whenever I saw a box of that stuff come into the house, I fled. One time I stood on the front porch and screamed my head off in a full-fledge Toni tantrum. But Mom and Toni prevailed.

I remember going to school the next day, aware of the cloud of stink floating around my head. I was in second grade, and the love of my young life, David Bartholomew sat behind me in class. Sure enough. He tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, “I smell something.”

My lie slid out smoother than a bowling ball on a waxed lane. “I do too. I saw a skunk out on the playground.”

Whether Toni went undercover after that, or my mother relinquished her dreams of my being a girlie girl, I don’t know, but that was the end of Mom’s home perms.

Our sense of smell, studies show, is closely related to memory. What memories surface in your mind when you think of things like lilies, pine needles, ozone, after shave, baby lotion, Prell shampoo, Christmas trees, spring grass, the ocean, or gasoline(Yes, before we knew anything about sniffing dangerous fumes, I liked the whiff of the gas cap.)

When we lived in Guatemala, one of the teenagers I tutored would pick any shirt or sweater I’d left around, and bury her head in it, absorbing my smell. Not having any fancy perfume up in those mountains, I worried about what she was inhaling.

I hope it left a pleasing memory.

The lover in the Song of Solomon says her beloved sends forth his fragrance over her. This is the fragrance I pray that would linger long after I have left—the fragrance of my Beloved.

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing—2 Cor.2:15

P.S. I discovered a Facebook page for adult children of Toni perms! I guess it left a permanent impression on a lot of people!


  1. Toni perms... I so remember them, but with naturally curly hair, I never used them. I do remember smelling them though. Thanks for this reminder of fragrance. May we all strive to be a sweet smelling fragrance.

  2. Toni latched onto my straight hair more than once while growing up. I'm still in recovery as a result :) The link to our senses/memories is undeniable. The acrid smell of pecans in November immediately take me back to my great-aunt's front yard where we gathered pecans soon after our Thanksgiving meal. Sweet memories. Thanks for the post, Marcia.


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