Avon Soap on a Rope and Why Its a Good Memory
For years my Mom was a waitress. She was a damned good waitress from what I remember. I can still see her sitting at our kitchen table counting her tips after a shift at the Cincinnati Country Club.
She wasnt educated. I think she managed one year of high school, if that. But she was smart. The kind of smart you dont get from a classroom. She could add a column of figures in no time flat. She always seemed to use the back of an old envelope to do her budget and I remember seeing those envelopes lying around with columns of figures in her handwriting. She had a great personality when she wasnt drinking and was a favorite with customers whom she got to know over the years while waiting tables at the country club. At Christmas, a few of her “regulars” would give her $100 bills.
She was widowed at the young age of 37 and with little education and a 13 year old to finish raising, she went back to doing what she knew how to do best and that was waiting tables. I remember in my misguided youth, being ashamed of the fact that she was a waitress. I always cringed when friends would ask or somehow found out that Sallie's mom was a waitress.
Now Im more ashamed of myself for feeling that way than I ever was of her.
But I guess when youre 13 and everyone around you has a normal life, you look at the one youve got and you do tend to cringe a bit.
As my Mom got older and could no longer handle carrying huge trays and long hours on her feet, she became an Avon Lady. She literally sold the hell out of Avon products for more than 20 years.
For years our house was filled with Avon products. My kids Avon bubble-bathed their way thru childhood. And while she often bought toys or nice clothes for Christmas presents for them, there was always an Avon box to open as well. For Mike, my husband, a new gadget or tool or flashlight from Avon. For the girls, some sort of little girl jewelry or bubble bath or body lotion. For me, always, something decorative for the house from Avon. She knew I wasnt keen on their perfumes, but she did know my taste and always found something I would like for the house.
What gets the most fond memories though were the “always there, every year, no surprise, soaps on a rope” for our two sons. To this day, they still remember and talk about knowing that on Christmas morning, there would be a box with a soap on a rope in it.
In a funny way...I think thats a sweet memory.
In typical fashion, she excelled at her Avon career. I still have many of her awards and commendations for top sales etc. The Avon Company initiated the “Albee Ladies” as a reward for top sales and top performance. These were beautifully decorated, porcelain figures, depicting different eras and were given to Avon Representatives who reached certain goals and set sales records in their own divisions. Some of them were created to go along with a specific holiday.
Mom earned 8 of the full sized Albee Ladies and several more of the miniature sized ladies. They range in date from 1985 to 2000. When she died in 2007, I found her ladies and while they werent exactly my cup of tea, I brought them home, along with her small curio cabinet, and set them all up in my living room. Thats where they all reside to this day. There is an Albee Lady dressed for Christmas...one to celebrate autumn, one depicting an Avon lady showing her wares and others. All amazingly detail oriented.
It seemed important to me to save them, as well as honor the memory of the woman who earned them.
On the bottom of each lady is an inscription which reads:
“This elegant figurine is created exclusively for the _______ (insert year) President's Club Members and is presented in recognition of distinguished sales achievement. The tradition of excellence, which began with Avon's very first Representative, Mrs. P.F.E. Albee, continues today through your dedication, hard work and entrepreneurial spirit. Congratulations!”
As the years have moved on and as I have gotten older, I am no longer embarrassed or ashamed of my mother. She did the best she could do with little education but a lot of talent and tenacity and perseverance. She faced her demons and one by one, she mowed them down. Many could take a lesson from her life. When I look at these Albee Ladies, which she earned, I feel pride.
I always grew up not wanting to be like her but I have come to realize that, in many ways, I am exactly like her and my only regret is that she is no longer here for me to tell her that much of what is good about me, is because of her.
Avon and Avon products might succumb to our brave, new world where it seems as though family values are being eroded. But for our family, soap on a rope and bubble bath will always be a reminder of the ties that bind a family together.