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STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Memories are in the labels

STELLPFLUG COLUMN: Memories are in the labels


Hotel shampoos and soaps may become a thing of the past as more and more places around the country and the world change to on-the-wall dispensers for toiletry needs. Gone will be the nicking of those cute little bottles and soaps that we later use for camping, beach trips and guest rooms.

More importantly, gone will be the memories that accompany handling the items labeled with familiar hotels and motels as well as bed and breakfasts. Unusual brands and unique scents allow us to relive a time and place right in our own homes. Being reminded of an experience by the lime aloe shampoo or the lavender soap is certainly not asking too much during this time of limited travel.

Even if “Summer Bay Resort” isn’t written on the packaging, I can smell the memory of that trip to Florida with my sister. As I suds up my hair I remember the restaurant with the good crab legs and calamari. My sister loved them. As I scrub my face, I almost smell the chlorine from the wonderful swimming pool wash off. As I rinse my hair, I can practically feel the sun on my face.

Yes, I am going to miss those half-used bottles and cutely wrapped soaps. There is nothing wrong with letting memories wash over you.

I am equally happy to find old matchbooks, also a thing of the past. Black Kettle Inn, Maison Lac Verde, Crows Mill, and my favorite one, found recently, “Margaret and Mark, June 26, 2004.” What a wonderful wedding that was. Memories were made in Michigan at a wedding of a wonderful couple. Sixteen years and two great kids later, I called Margaret to tell her I found a matchbook reminding me of what fun we had at her wedding.

Norwood Pines, Benvenutos, and Roepkes Village Inn are places of good food, conversations and friends. Meeting family there, having birthday celebrations, and lunches where decisions were made all come to mind. The matchbooks are old and worn with a few matches left to start a campfire, but they make me smile, nonetheless. Good meals, good times, good memories, all on a matchbook.

I will have to let pens and tablets now remind me of where I’ve been. A House on the Rock Resort pen pulls up another savored event. A wedding on a glorious day, a weekend of family and friends, a view with a room to stay in.

The tablets I was handed at conferences seemed routine at the time, but now are treasured. They reflect a learning experience whether I was the speaker or the participant. A colleague or new friend, is remembered as I write my grocery lists and jot notes to myself. Hotels with pools I didn’t get to use because of my last-minute preparation for a speech pop into my closed eyes. I wish I had taken that swim.

My backpack, purse, car and junk drawer are filled with constant reminders of people and places and days gone by. Hospitals and banks and the British Red Cross. Lime green pens remind me that my financial planner is nearby. Pink ones remind me I need a mammogram.

One matchbook from a bar closed long ago makes me smile at the memory of classmates who gathered there. A pen from Yosemite—I traded with a waitress for a Sleep Well Dental pen—reminds me of the wonderful trails, but also the fires that have devastated the area. Cedarberry Inn was where we stayed when taking friends to their first American Players production. On and on the labels bring new smile lines to my already crinkled face.

It doesn’t hurt to take a moment and pause as you discover slivers of past experiences, travels and people. In fact, touching, smelling and using mementos as they appear keeps us moving forward. When the products are used up, we will be able to travel again. When the last match is used, when the notepads are gone, when the pens run dry, it’s time to start anew, collecting new items, making new memories, finding new pens to write about memories.

Kay Stellpflug is an educator and trainer in interpersonal and professional communications. She works and lives in Beaver Dam and can be reached at

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