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keeping tabs

There are lots of signposts that remind us of where we’ve been. Like a certain song first heard decades ago that whisks you right back to that moment each time you hear it (Van Morrison, anyone?). Or that faded-to-super-soft concert tee that you still can’t part with because it makes you feel cool again each time you pull it on (Frampton Comes Alive!). Or that fragrance you — or someone you had a crush on — once wore (Shalimar, maybe? Or Polo?). One waft of it now, and you’re flashing back to times past.

Or, in my case, a sparkling beverage in a hot-pink can. Yup, that paean to the 1970s soft-drink world — Tab. Full disclosure: I used to drink diet soda a lot (a can and a donut were my idea of breakfast for a long time). Tab was my choice when I was a teenager and then a college student and even after that.

For those of you who may not know, Tab was Coca-Cola’s diet choice way before Diet Coke came along. In its signature bright pink can, it stood out. Although clearly not the healthiest choice (in place of sugar, it was sprinkled with saccharine), it was the choice of those of us longing to look like the models on the cover of Seventeen magazine. And the taste? Let’s just say it was an acquired one.

The summer I met B., we were between our junior and senior years in high school and attending a program at Cornell. I have vivid memories of putting my quarters into the soda machine to grab an icy cold can of Tab during those hot, humid, Ithaca afternoons. (And vivid memories of B. running into me at the mailboxes and saying, “You really like that stuff, huh?” Such a smooth talker.)

Tab followed me throughout college — my tiny little dorm fridge was always filled with those pink cans. (The caffeine is what kept me going through the thousand-and-one papers I wrote for English Lit.)

And when I visited B. in San Francisco in the mid-1980s (yes, our relationship story spans decades before we actually got together for good), what did he have in his kitchen just waiting for me? That’s right, the man bought me Tab — enough to last the dozen more years until we got married. (Only kidding. About the amount of soda, not the number of years.)

So what changed? Diet Coke came into the picture and tasted better. Plus, Tab was more and more difficult to find. Finally, I gave up the whole soda thing. Sure, I might order a Diet Coke once in a very blue moon these days, but seltzer (excuse me, sparkling water) is now my beverage of choice. And yes, my breakfasts have become much healthier too (also more boring and less fun).

So it’s not with the regret of missing something I love that I received the news earlier this week that Tab was being discontinued. Just the regret that those memories are now truly only that — memories.

So rest in pink, you bubbly, effervescent friend. You were fizzy while you lasted.

Utterly fan-tab-ulous.

© 2020 Claudia Grossman

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