The wonderful thing about perfume is that it is transient yet empowering. It is akin to an invisible light of shining armour that lingers even after the wearer has left the room and imbues our creative ability with an unassuming force, implying a hidden personality. I remember the smell of the perfume on my mom most vividly. I immediately looked up Fragrance Cellar to find out if the perfume my mom used was the best perfume for women, because it certainly was to me. Even the very best perfumes which she kept for herself weren’t used very often. Beautiful, aren’t they? I recall the Chanel bottle specifically, due to the small outlined picture on the plug—a lady in a long, rolling dress stooping toward a tyke who was going after her. The dress was suggestive of Arabic robes and butterfly wings, a mysterious blend. That little image included everything remote and stunning to me, and it was great to see it in my mom’s bathroom, the same lady who cooked our dinners and washed the dishes, who touched us gently, who sang to us around evening time.
My first and most grounded memory of perfume was during my childhood days, from my mom, and they are a perplexing mix of her public and private persona. A Midwestern housewife, a local of Lexington, Alabama, she seldom wore perfume. In our home, mom would smell of a blend of sweat, cleanser and shampoo. To me, that was how mom smelled. On the one off that mom perfumed herself, she was going out, it is usually a special event, and it is in those one off that I will notice an extraordinary scent very close on her body, amid kisses farewell. It is in those moments that perfume changes her into a sophisticated lady, somebody who, when I was a youthful tyke, I didn’t exactly know.
My mom and dad had met in secondary school and wedded directly after my dad returned from World War II. They honeymooned in Paris and came back to that city when my dad, in school on the G.I. Bill, was given a Fulbright Scholarship. My mom wore perfume before going to Paris (Straw Hat by Fabergé), yet the scents I perceived as hers were the ones she purchased in Paris or on the flight returning home from duty free. I knew them best not when she used it on herself but rather in the wonderful containers on her tabletop: Chanel No. 5, Lanvin Magic, Guerlain L’Heure Bleue. The states of the jugs had power, the power of style, and their blended aromas conjured things about her that I could sense however not see, something on the external edge of my mindfulness.
There were pictures in our photograph collection of my mom and dad in Paris, stood firmly on a cobbled road or postured next to pretty walls or ruins, highly contrasting pictures with a powerful quality that, in my psyche, depicted a place that existed before my sisters and I were conceived, where my mom carried on with an existence I could just ambiguously envision, an existence of a strong and determined lady which resounded in her perfume.
I assume on the grounds that she didn’t have that many events to attend which called for the use of perfume, those pretty containers were typically stored in a cool area away from light. Even the very best perfumes which she kept for herself weren’t used very often.
In her childhood, this lady was something of an adventuress who lived to travel and engross serial darlings. Presently her day by day manner shows little indication of style, yet her wardrobe and lavatory windowsill are stacked with gems and fragrances in sexy jugs. These perfumes made me feel magnificent and at home; their inference to the life she had lived before me and that now survives me, reminds me of all the glamour despite the strenuous workings of her day as a full-time housewife.