Scent of a Woman

I’m pretty sensitive to scent. I also tend to react quite strongly to scent. I can tell you, with no hesitation, that I detest the smell of patchouli and I can pick it out every time. I can even tell you if a perfume as a patchouli base, that’s how offensive it is to me.

But, in my own life, I’m a scent experimenter. I rarely wear the same scent from day to day. If you’ve been to my house, you’ve probably seen my Bath and Body Works scented lotions collection. I could almost open my own store. And if you open my medicine cabinet, you’ll see the many perfumes that I own. But, open the drawer below and you’ll see dozens of tiny perfume samples ( I love tiny perfume samples, I’d rather have those than full size bottles, so I always have something new to try).

Each day I try something new. I’ll layer on a scented lotion. Then add a body spray…sometimes matching, sometimes not. Then I’ll choose a perfume to top it off. Sounds stinky and horrible, right? Wrong.  I’m pretty good at this and I have found that if the scents all please me, they’ll usually work well together.

Today, I went a little out there. Must be the leopard print shirt I’m wearing! I started with Wild Honeysuckle lotion, added Cherry Blossom body spray (one of my all-time favorite scents in the universe) and then opted for the tiny samples of perfume. I dug toward the bottom of the pile to the ones I wear less frequently. Typically these are ones I like less. I found Ralph Lauren’s Romance. This is a strong perfume. It is not something I would typically wear. It is a bit heavier, a deeper scent, with floral undertones. Not my typical style, but it came in a pack.

I sniffed it and thought, hmm, that could actually work.

So I put it on. I was careful to go light, in case it wasn’t something I enjoyed.

Turns out, good thing I did because it is really strong! I can pretty much always smell my own scent (many people can’t) and this one is bordering on overpowering.

Here’s the thing, though, all morning I kept thinking I smelled…familiar. At first I thought it was just similar to a combo I must have used before. But, it kept nagging at me; like I should know this scent. Finally, I stopped what I was doing and closed my eyes and breathed in, just letting my mind go. Then–BAM! In a huge rush, it hit me.

I smell like my Gramma Conway.

My gramma was one of my favorite people in the whole world. She and I were very close. She was part of an old generation where women dressed every day, in an outfit. Coordinating clothes, matching accessories and shoes, even the jewelry went with specific outfits. And she’d dress like this to go to the grocery store. She was an old-fashioned lady. But she was very special. I remember once, when I was young, talking to her about her smell. I must have said I liked it or something and she said she can never smell it on herself. I still remember that, distinctly, because I can. I have thousands of memories of her in my mind, many about fashion, most about books.

The interesting thing about this is, she died fourteen years ago. I find it amazing that I still remember what she smells like, or, probably more accurately that I still remember what I remember her smelling like. Smells like any other memory, fade and twist and change in the mind of the holder. She may have smelled nothing at all like what I remember, but my memory carries a distinct scent that I identify as belonging to her. Whether it does or not matters not at all, it is the scent I associate with her and with many happy memories.

Today, I’m walking around in this world smelling like my dead grandmother. That’s a bit strange (especially when I write it like that) but it makes me happy. When I move and the air around me carries a whiff of that scent, it curls into my brain and wakes up memories that haven’t visited in a while.

I remember that when I came home from college to visit her, I told her about this boy I was friends with, Jason. She said, “is he Catholic?” And I said I didn’t know. She paused, for just a moment and said, “is he handsome?” And I said yes and we laughed together.

I remember when I was in the 4th grade I went to her house. A pair of her heels were by the back door (that was odd, she did not leave things lying around) and I immediately tried to put them on. I’d been trying on her shoes for my whole life. That year, in the 4th grade, they no longer fit. She had itty-bitty tiny feet and I’ve been blessed with tugboats. I was 9 years old when I could no longer fit into her adult shoes. And she said, “well, at least I’m still taller than you!” She was very petite. It was only one more year before I surpassed her in height as well.

I remember that we used to play “bar” in their basement, my siblings and me. They had a built in wet bar, fully stocked. They were high-quality entertainers, my grandparents. There was this bottle of whiskey that always sat out on the top of the bar (the rest were below) and it was encased in a bottle wrap that was shaped like a poodle. A black poodle with a diamond studded collar. I was in love with that poodle. In my youth, I didn’t even care or probably realize that there was booze inside, I just loved it. After my grandmother passed away, I said I really wanted that poodle–and he’s living in my home now. He sits in my kitchen, just above my liquor cabinet (no bar for me) and he makes me smile whenever my eyes fall upon him.

I could go on for days about the things I remember. A million stories. But, for today, I’m just happy to briefly flit into the past and remember this wonderful woman that I still miss, so very much.

Tell me, what is your strongest scent related memory?

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2 thoughts on “Scent of a Woman

  1. I openly gasped when I read that it was your grandma! I have many memories of her too. I didn’t know about the poodle. I will take note of it next time I’m over. Did you know framed flowers from her funeral hang in my bedroom? I will keep them there forever because they remind me of a special time in my childhood. We were just getting some freedom when I’d spend time at your grandma’s house. I can’t believe she’s been gone fourteen years. I think I need to call my grandma tonight. Loved the post.

    I have a very strong sniffer, as Victoria would say. When I smell Polo I think of a past boyfriend. The memory and scent are so strongly connnected I get slapped in the face when I smell it.

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