While growing up, I traveled with my family on numerous road-trips. There were trans-American excursions to reunions in Indiana, Ohio, and Texas. There were West Coast traverses to spend summers at our cabin in the woods of Oregon. There were, at least, monthly jaunts up the Southern Californian coast to L.A. and Ventura for get-togethers with kith & kin. Through all these many miles and many experiences, both good and bad, there was my mom’s travel medicine kit.
It looked to be a typical travel kit, maybe yeah long and yeah wide, gray in color with white trim. It had two ordinary metal fasteners along the front, but this kit holds an esteemed spot in the banks of my memory. I don’t remember a single trip without that kit sitting on the front seat of the station wagon between Mom and Dad. There it rode, quietly waiting, until its services were needed.
The smells of the kit, a combination of menthol deep-heating rub, semi-inexpensive perfume, and Wrigley’s spearmint gum, were a subtle olfactory smorgasbord—with the lid closed. With the lid raised you had to be careful not to get caught by a direct hit from the interior; small aircraft and weather fronts were known to be driven off course by the contents!
I remember well the sound of the two snap fasteners opening, “clack,” “clack,” the hinged lid being lifted with a slow creak, the hard plastic handle succumbing to gravity, as the lid raised, and striking the case with a dull thud.
Because the kit contained all the standard remedies for all the standard maladies, the tastes it produced ranged from the delights of a Hersey Kiss to the jaw-dropping horribleness of various commercial cough syrups that shall remain nameless.
The sights, smells, sounds, and tastes of the kit are cherished childhood memories, but the kit represented so much more…
There was the coziness of leaning over the front seat while stretched out in my bed-roll, quietly asking Dad questions while Mom and my brother and sister slept around us. Rolling along with Dad marathoning into the wee hours, pulling over only for a quick pre-dawn nap before the four-wheeled attack continued. There was the certainty of coming to Mom with pretty much any problem, from a blistered heel to a lemonade/mud-pie bellyache, and she knowing the right combination of Bactine, TLC, and “get tough it’s only a scratch” to get me back on my feet. There was, finally, the security of spending the night in a lesser known relative’s home; of stumbling through the midnight darkness with a dream-clouded brain; of searching for the bathroom light switch and having order restored only when illumination revealed the familiar kit atop the counter.
As I work here in Scripps Ranch preparing our family home to sell, Mom and Dad are both gone and with its interior mirror cracked and its hinges giving out, so is the medicine kit. I find comfort though knowing that I can always take a sweet drive down memory lane where I never have to worry about gas prices!
Daniel J McAuliffe
10949 Red Cedar Dr.
San Diego, CA 92131