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I’m a thrifty, penny-pinching mama who now buys hand soap retailing for $7.50. And I blame COVID.

You see, I run a busy household with two unruly dogs, two teens, and a revolving door of their friends. Plus, my husband and I work from home. You can bet we go through a ton of hand soap around here.

Nobody complained when I used to get the store-brand antibacterial soap on sale for a dollar a bottle.

But something changed when COVID descended on my family, passed among cousins, aunts, and uncles like a not-at-all-funny white elephant gift.

Overall, we were lucky, though one of our extended family members was briefly hospitalized before recovering.

I was only sick for about a week and lost my sense of taste and smell for just 10 days. But I will never, ever forget how terrible it was to force down unappetizing food, with a metallic aftertaste, just so I’d have some energy. And I could either gulp coffee that smelled like nothing with a mouthful reminiscent of warm dishwater, or eschew my daily java and pay for it with a terrible headache.

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Though it stunk (well, not literally), I expected all of this. Everyone knows it’s a common side effect of the coronavirus. Some of our kin still haven’t fully regained their taste and smell.

But what I wasn’t prepared for?

The euphoria on that magical evening when my senses reawakened.

I had just washed my hands with some fancy soap, thanks to a Christmas gift. The scent was “champagne toast” to ring in the new year, something I would have normally considered frivolous. And yet, it jarred me in the most delightful way. That heavenly aroma. My first smell in more than a week.

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I yelled out in jubilation! Oh, and I must have looked ridiculous, my fingers pressed up against my face and a tear in my eye.

You never realize how utterly delectable your sense of smell is . . . until it’s just gone. And that changed something deep within me.

These days, I don’t fret about the cost and mail-order my favorite coffee from two states away. I taste-test the specialty, seasonal beers at our local brewery. And get the good whiskey.

I linger over homemade zucchini bread with chunky walnuts.

And mashed potatoes with real butter and sour cream.

Yes, even and especially, I buy the fancy, fruity, overpriced hand soap.

It’s a cliché. And I hate clichés. But COVID taught me to savor every smell, every bite, every moment.

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There’s very little about the pandemic that’s positive. Silver linings we try to manufacture tend to ring hollow after all the misery and death.

But if a lemon-sugar scented wax melt can brighten your day, why the heck not?

If a foamy soap, of the frosted-cinnamon-roll variety, can make you smile as you deeply inhale while washing your hands, every time you use the restroom—well good grief, go for it.

There’s so much about the human experience that’s worth savoring.

COVID whispered that to my soul, knocking loose some of my tight-fisted practicality.

Touché, novel virus. Point to you.

If $7.50* soap helps me savor the tiny pleasures and whimsies of this one precious life, well, I’d say that’s a rather good deal. Even for a cheapskate like me.

*Fine, so I get it on sale for $3.50. You still get the point.

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Jacqueline Miller

When not worrying about her teenagers, Jacqueline Miller is writing about them. Her recent work appears in, HuffPost and The Christian Science Monitor. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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