When I was young, there used to be a huge Nivea ball on every famous beach. This structure, which served obviously as publicity to the personal-care brand, was also a meeting point for everybody.
“Hey, let’s meet at the Nivea ball after lunch” used to be our most repeated sentence in those days.
But it was not only used among friends: anytime there was a serious topic such as parents not knowing where their kids were, there it was the ball to guide the daily lives of everyone. Because before all the smartphones and constant connectivity, there was already a life, where people managed to “survive” without any of the technology and gadgets people so desperately need nowadays (it sounds strange for the new generations, I know).
So when arriving in their summer destination, parents usually would advise their kids to “put some lotion and, in case we lose track of one another, go immediately to the Nivea ball and wait for us”. So everyone was talking about this brand, being through the ball used as a meeting point or because of the sun lotion itself, which our progenitors would tell us 100 times per day to apply on our body.
The ball served as a lighthouse, a pillar that would guide all the bathers on those hot summer days. And so the kids were playing ball games, hitting many times people lying down on the beach who would momentarily get upset. Or just playing catch, throwing sand to these same people lying down there, who would become even more annoyed.
But then, with a smile or an honest – but also a “scared” – apology coming from their innocent mouths, the adults would immediately smile back and answer “no problem, just make sure you go play closer to the water, and not here where people are sunbathing”.
And so the kids would go closer to the water, to come back on the next day and have exactly the same behavior they had been advised not to repeat a day before. But not everything was about the ball and catch games. There were also calmer activities such as building sandcastles, “burying” bodies of friends – leaving just their heads out – or just playing cool, addictive card games.
For those people, every summer was a celebration and an opportunity to meet others whom they would only see again next year, exactly on that same beach, always with the Nivea ball in the background.
But then the years passed. And with it the habit of gathering with the same “beach group” from the past. Maybe some decided to go somewhere else. Others simply chose another time to take their holidays. And there were also these who, due to life circumstances, lack of money or “just because”, simply stopped going to where they had always spent their summer in the previous years.
And so, what was before a strong, unified group, slowly began to fade away, even with all the efforts of the remaining few members who tried, by all means, to keep the spirit and the tradition of those good, old days alive.
But not only people changed: also the beaches.
The municipalities, under indication of governments, started building safer accesses but also more modern structures along the beach. This was clearly a sign of how times were changing, where people began to obsess more about security and how to control their kids – who would now all have a smartphone (as if before it was impossible to survive without one) – than to spend a nice time together with old friends.
Among all those changes, also because the online was the “new place where all companies needed to be”, there was a moment in which all those Nivea balls were dismantled. Being because the brand itself decided that this type of publicity was no longer profitable or simply because the local authorities ordered to disassemble them, no one knows.
The fact was that the balls simply vanished from the landscape and with them all the dreams and the reminder of another era. A time where people gathered on a beach, having a great time together without the interference of any gadget or latest technology (ok, maybe you could spot some Gameboys or Gamegears back on those days).
A time replaced by adulthood, with all its responsibilities, bills to pay, and daily routine, which slowly filled our heads with dust, pushing all those good memories into a forgotten “drawer” in the depths of our brain.
The reality, as we like to call it, says that there is no time to look back, just to put our eyes in the present (and in the future). “Oh, there are so many important things we must take care of, who cares about what we did so many years before”. And so, this image of those hot summers eventually became a distant memory which we only revisit in some special family meetings.
Until last week I was taking a shower in my gym, and suddenly a scent entered my nasal cavity without asking for any permission, immediately taking me back to those times.
For some seconds, which felt like long minutes, there I was on the beach, watching all those kids playing football and throwing sand to people, with some of them laughing and the rest simply getting irritated with all that “chaos”. A great spectacle revolving around that big Nivea ball, a central monument on the beach which everyone treated almost as a god.
Ah and that scent? It was a new shower gel from Nivea called Sunshine Love. Perhaps someone in the company, nostalgic of those beach times which will never come back, just thought: since we will never be able to put back the ball on the beach, at least we will bring its real smell back.
And in these times of indifference and uniformity, where people are so worried about their busy routines, there are still some rare birds who like to remind us how life will only be big if we know how to slow down and enjoy its small moments.