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The Essential Oil That Sells Itself

“Yes, but doTerra has sixty-two different kinds of single essential oils and fifty-two proprietary blends. And that’s not including our spin-off products,” Leah says, hands flailing.


“It doesn’t matter how many there are. It’s all about effectiveness. That’s what Young Living is all about. Effectiveness,”Bev says. “Mom, back me up here.”

“I’m just so proud of my entrepreneur girls,” Mom says.

Dad scoffs.

“Steven!” Mom says.

“I’m sorry, but how much money have you girls actually made with your MLMs?” Dad asks.

“They’re not MLMs,” Leah says.

“Pyramid schemes?” I say.

“Jacob!” Mom says.

“Home businesses!” Leah and Bev say in chorus.

“Right, right. Ok, how much money have you girls made doing your home businesses?” Dad asks, with air quotes.

Leah and Bev look at each other.

“I made a thousand dollars last month, but I only worked part of the month. It’s only gonna grow from there,” Leah says.

“That’s great, Lee!” Mom says.

“And how much did you spend on products for yourself?” Dad asks.


“Listen, Dad, you have to invest in your business before you can make real money,” Bev says. 

There is an awkward silence with Dad, Leah, and Bev looking at each other. Dad looks at me and raises his eyebrows. Mom sits there smiling at no one in particular.

“You all know that’s how doTerra and Young Living make their money, right? By convincing its salespeopleto buy its own products. It’s a scheme,” Dad says.

“A pyramid scheme, just like I said,” I say, raising my hand to give Dad a high-five. He doesn’t see me. I lower my hand back down.

“Oh my gosh, Dad,” Leah says.

“Jake, hand me that piece of paper,” Bev says.

We’re in for a long one.

I hand a sheet of paper and a pen to Bev and stand up. “I’m gonna make cookies,” I say, prompting everyone to pause the heated conversation and look at me.

“How sweet is that!” Mom says. “Oh—pun!”

“Do you even know how to make cookies?” Bev says.

“Well, Grandma’s recipe is on the fridge, and I can read and everything. Besides, it’s a picture-perfect snowy Christmas day outside. It just seems like the right thing to do.”

“Not to mention, when you get to high school next year, you’ll be quite the ladies’ man with your baked goods!” Mom says.

“Oh, Mom,” Leah says, rolling her eyes.

“What? Was that an inappropriate joke? Is baked goodsa thing? I’m sorry, there’s just so much slang—” Mom says.

“I will be in the kitchen,” I say and purse my lips.

Dad, Mom, Bev, and Leah continue the conversation and I step into the kitchen, peeling the post-it note of Grandma’s recipe off the fridge and laying it on the counter in front of me.

“Oh…kay…” I say, exhaling.

I turn the oven on and begin gathering ingredients. 

Maybe I could make extra and take a plate over to Chelsea’s house.

“…inhalation is way more effective than topical application,” one of the girls argues from the front room.

No, that might be—creepy? Maybe I just say it’s from my Mom? A family gift from mine to yours?

I combine the flour, eggs, and sugar in a silver bowl and start mixing. Now it’s starting to look familiar.

The oven beeps, signaling it’s reached 375 degrees.

“Going ok in here?” Mom says, sticking her head around the corner.

“Jeez Mom, you scared me.”

“Sorry!” She looks around for a minute. “Look at you, mister chef! Hey, no nuts, right? Uncle Scott is coming over later. He’s deathly allergic.”

“Oh great, that guy?”

Maybe I should put nuts in the cookies. Just for him.

“I know, I know. Anyway, let me know if you need help. Grandma should be here any minute.”

“Thanks, Mom.”

Just as I start to roll the dough into balls, the back door swings open. I turn around to see Grandma with a jovial smile.

“That’s not how cookies are made!” she says, rushing towards me.

She hasn’t even looked at them, I think, feeling defensive.

“Here,” she says, pulling a little brown bottle out of her purse. She fills a vial up with whatever’s in the bottle and squirts it into the bowl. “Mix this around thenroll it up. Trust me. Grandma’s secret ingredient.”

“But I followed your recipe exactly.”

“Grandma’s secret ingredient, Jacob,” she says and winks.

I shrug my shoulders.

Grandma disappears into the front room and I mix the dough again. I fill a cookie sheet with fifteen cookie dough balls and slide it into the oven. I set the timer to eleven minutes and prop myself onto the counter.

According to multiple witnesses, you told your Uncle Scott specifically that there were no nuts in the cookies. But you knew there were nuts, didn’t you, Mr. Kline? You’re the one who made them after all. So, tell me why you decided to kill—

The timer beeps, waking me from my murderous daydream.

I hop off the counter, put the oven mitt on and take the cookies out. The cookies smell different than I remember. What’s the word Leah and Bev use all the time now? Earthy?

I organize the cookies onto a red and white serving plate—how festive of you, Mr. Kline—and bring it to the front room. Grandma is sitting in a chair by the window watching the snow fall. The rest of the group is where I left them, still engaged in a lively discussion on the nature of entrepreneurship.

“Cookies up!” I say.

“Ah, hell yeah!” Dad says.

“Steven!” Mom says.

“Look at you all grown up,” Leah says.

Grandma laughs, still looking out the window.

Everyone takes a cookie, and Mom makes a half-hearted attempt to start a hip hip hooray for me, but no one else participates.

“You know, Grandma—do you still have back pain?” Bev says.

Grandma turns around. “I do every now and again but it’s getting better.”

“Have you tried Eucalyptus essential oils? Eucalyptus is an anti-inflammatory.”

“So is Peppermint,” Leah says.

“And don’t forget about Lavender,” Bev says.

“Also, Marjoram. It’s an antispasmodic,” Leah says.

“Yes, but only Young Living’s is. doTerra is crap, Grandma. Remember that,” Bev says.

“Beverly!” Mom says.

Grandma laughs again and turns to me with an are-you-seeing-this expression.

“Well, jokes on everyone cause all essential oils are CRAP!” Dad says and leans back in his chair laughing.

As the time passes—the conversation amazingly still on essential oils—the voices begin slowing down. My peripheral vision begins to blur, and I feel myself sink further into the couch.

“Well, Young Living grows its own plants. Did you know that? Where does doTerra get their plants, huh? Some sweatshop in Vietnam?” Bev says.

“What—that doesn’t even—”

“That’s what I thought. Look I’ll even find a nice comparison chart on the internaaaaattttttttt.”

Mom drops the family scrapbook she’s been buried in for the last twenty minutes on the ground and starts silently chuckling. “Inter-NAT! Oh Bev, where did you learn that?”

The rest of us laugh. And laugh. And laugh. We’re like a runaway train.

“Learn that?” I ask. “Where the damn would she have learned that?”

That prompts even more laughter. We laugh just long enough for me to forget what was so funny to begin with.

“Where the damn? Oh Jake, someone needs to teach you how to swear before you get to high school,” Leah says.

“Mom could teach him, right honey?” Dad says, prompting another eruption of laughter. Mom’s face turns bright red.

Grandma rocks back and forth on her chair facing the window, huge smile on her face.

“Steven—and Jake—we do not swear in this… mother flipping household!” Mom says, hands waving wildly above her head.

I fall onto the floor, unable to contain my laughter.

Bev kneels next to me and starts patting me on the back. “We need a medic!” she yells.

“It’s ok, we’ve got two essential oil reps here, we should be all good—over,” Leah responds, pretending to talk into a walkie-talkie.

More laughter.

I find a comfortable spot on the ground and sprawl out. The laughter fizzles out as everyone resumes their original spots. The cookie plate is empty and has been since—well, I don’t remember when.

Dad breaks the silence, picking up the newspaper on the side table. “Hey, the new medical marijuana bill went into effect last week. All joking aside—” He abruptly stops and stares out the window. 

The rest of us watch his expressionless face for a minute before realizing that he’s staring at something. We turn our gaze to the window, where a family of four deer meanders through the snow-covered backyard. We stare out the window in complete silence for five minutes. Or it could’ve been twenty seconds. I’m not sure.

This is not man’s planet, this is nature’s planet. We are intruders. Alien invaders.

“Maybe you should look into medical marijuana for your back pain,” Dad finishes.

“That…is not a bad idea,” Grandma says.

The doorbell rings.

“Oh boy, I don’t know what you put in these cookies, Jake, but I think I might get lost if I try to get the front door,” Mom says.

Everyone laughs again.

“I got it,” I say, standing up, recalibrating, and walking to the front door. I swing it open with raw animal strength. “Uncle Scott!”

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