A signature scent

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You know those little cologne advertisements infused with a designated scent? You know, the ones inserted into department store ad brochures that come in the mail or you find inside a women’s magazine.

I like them. I enjoy getting a whiff of perfume or men’s cologne that I probably cannot afford to purchase. I like those freebie samples so much that I often save them in a little pile on my desk so I can open them, one at a time, one day at a time, to smell the scent of that fragrance.

Some days, after sniffing one, I chuck it into the trash can immediately. Yuk, didn’t like the odor of that one. Too strong. Too flowery. Too spicy. Too….something.

But often I find one that just smells sooooo good to me. And you know what I do? I swipe that rectangle of scent over the inside of my wrists to see if I can continue to catch a whiff of it all day long.  Am I weird or what?

I’m writing this as I occasionally lift my wrist to my nose and inhale a lovely scent of perfume. Right now, it’s Romance by Ralph Lauren, which ironically is a fragrance I happen to actually have.

Thinking about aromas brought some memories to my mind today. I’ve written before that my oldest memory is not a picture or an event but is actually a smell. And some aromas seem permanently attached to memories in my quirky brain.

Take the scent of a perfume named Chantilly for example. You may have never heard of it because it’s an old fragrance and has been around for almost 80 years.  A company named Dana debuted Chantilly in 1941. Even though I wasn’t even born yet when the perfume hit the department store counters, the scent of Chantilly immediately makes me remember someone dear to me – my mother-in-law. Chantilly was the perfume she always wore. You might say it was her signature scent.

After my husband’s mother passed away, we performed the task of going through her belongings and choosing what to keep and what to dispose of or give away. I found it interesting that both of our daughters chose to keep small bottles of half-used Chantilly as keepsakes to remind them of their grandmother. To this day, if I happen to catch a whiff of that perfume, I automatically think of her.

My own mother wore an assortment of colognes, many of them from Avon, from time to time, so I can’t identify one in particular that was her signature scent. I do recall her wearing Here’s My Heart and I even have two small empty fragrance bottles of that particular perfume. But there is another fragrance that always reminds me of my mom – a clean, fresh scent – the smell of bar soap.

There’s another old-time perfume that also reminds me of someone – my maternal grandmother. I have only a few memories of her because she passed away when I was nine years old. But I do vividly recall a fragrance in a cobalt blue glass bottle that she wore and kept in her bedroom. Evening in Paris was created in 1928 by Bourjois, a French company. 

During a trip to Vermont in 2018, I was tickled pink blue when I spotted a bottle of this fragrance for sale at The Vermont Country Store. When I smelled a sample bottle, my grandmother was in my thoughts. Evening in Paris seems to be my grandmother’s signature scent.

I think my father also had a signature scent. He wasn’t one to wear men’s colognes, but he did splash an after-shave lotion on his face every morning. I can remember watching Dad spread shave cream over his face and being amazed at the way he shaved off his daily whiskers by razor without cutting himself. The smell of Old Spice always reminds me of my dad.  Introduced as a scent for men in 1938, the original Old Spice products were made by the Shulton Company. Today this 83-year-old brand is owned by Proctor and Gamble.

I find it amazing that certain fragrances bring particular people to my mind. My oldest daughter dated a wonderful young man in high school, who happened to always wear Obsession for Men by Calvin Kline. They parted amicably when they went off to college and I rarely see him unless it’s an occasional post on Facebook. But if I happen to smell that particular men’s cologne on someone nearby, I think of this fellow. For me, it’s that young man’s signature scent.

My husband truly doesn’t have a signature scent. Over the 40+ years we’ve been married and even during our three years of dating, he has worn a variety of fragrances, from Ralph Lauren’s Polo, Lagerfeld, and Royal Copenhagen to Drakkar Noir, or none at all. Lately though, his signature scent might be coming from a brand of soap he discovered and likes to use in the shower, Duke Cannon.

And what about me? What is my signature scent?

It has changed over the years as I’ve grown older, ahem….become more mature. As a young teen, I liked the flowery and powdery kind of scents. In college, I wore a lot of musk oil based perfumes because they were popular and I liked the earthy aroma of them. Then I latched onto more spicy scents.

I’ve tried a lot of different fragrances in my lifetime, but I keep coming back to one. It’s not a popular, trendy perfume. You don’t see it advertised. It’s not found in the pricey section of department store cosmetics counters. Matter of fact, I can purchase it on Amazon, at Wal-Mart, or in other discount stores.

My signature scent comes in a triangular shaped bottle with a blue cap and is simply named Claiborne by Liz Claiborne.

It’s a throwback to the 1980’s and it’s described as a refreshing, floral fragrance.  According to numerous fragrance websites, it “captures with carnation, lily, freesia, mandarin, marigold, green notes, bergamot and peach at the top, followed by a floral wave of jasmine, narcissus, rose, ylang-ylang, lilac, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, and violet at the heart. Base notes include warm sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.”

It’s a conglomeration of aromas, some flowery, some fruity, some earthy. Kind of like me, a mixture of various things. That is the essence of me. And I wonder, will my signature scent ever remind someone of me?

“I think a fragrance is more of a signature than even what you wear – something you’ll remember more down the road than a shirt.” ~ Ryan Reynolds

©2020 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

I smell a memory

blogDSCN0618 - CopyI’m a smeller.

Oh, I don’t mean I smell awful, although on a hot summer day I imagine I don’t exactly smell fresh!  I’m a smeller because I possess a pretty keen sense of smell.

If there’s an odor in the air, pleasant or malodorous, it seems to reach my nose before my husband’s.  Often I ask him, “What’s that smell?” and receive this reply, “What smell?”

The sense of smell, which apparently triggers memories in a powerful and instantaneous way, fascinates me.  Actually, my earliest memory is a smell – not a person, not a sight, not an event, but an odor.

When I was a just a toddler, my grandparents lived on a farm for a time.  I have no memory whatsoever of visiting them, but I’ve seen pictures of my little self there, petting kittens, posing with my older sisters.   So I know I’ve been to that farm, but I can’t recall what it looked like or any event that happened there.

As I grew up, whenever I smelled a particular smoky odor, for some reason it reminded me of my grandparents.  One day after puzzling over the connection, I asked my mother about it.  She informed me an old smoke-house (where meat was smoked) existed on the farm so that odor permeated throughout my grandparents’ home.

Aha.  My first memory – smoked meat – explains why I can’t turn down bacon, doesn’t it?

I’ve read that our sense of smell, more than any other sense, is vitally linked to the part of the human brain that processes emotion.  It’s no wonder then that every time I handle a handmade quilt crafted by my grandmother long before my birth,  I inhale the smell of it and it brings me to tears.  That quilt smells like my beloved Grandma, who I lost when I was nine.

Other odors – and not just onions – cause me to weep also.  If I catch a whiff of Chantilly perfume, I automatically recall my late dear mother-in-law; that scent, her favorite, reminds me how much I miss her.  Smelling freshly laundered and hung outside to dry clothes evoke sweet memories of my mother as does the clean aroma of soap.

Fragrances mesh firmly with my memories, nice or otherwise, which is also why the men’s after shave, Brut, brings my first boyfriend to mind, although I’d definitely rather forget him.  I don’t enjoy the scent of roses, although I love to partake of their beauty.  Just don’t make me smell them.  There must be some negative connection to their fragrance, but I haven’t figured out yet what it might be.

Researchers say children possess more acute senses of smell than older folks and that as we age, we start losing some of our smell-ability.  I lost my ‘smeller’ once when I had an atrocious case of bronchitis, sinus and double ear infections all at once.  It was Thanksgiving time and I couldn’t smell a darn thing.

No delicious aroma of roasting turkey or pumpkin pie registered with me, not even a hint.  To top it all off, I lost my sense of taste at the same time.  When I closed my eyes and chewed my food, I couldn’t distinguish mashed potatoes from peas – certainly not an enjoyable Thanksgiving feast!  So I hope to maintain my sense of smell as long as possible!

Not only can odors flood our thoughts with memories, they supposedly influence our moods and even affect work performance.  You could try to use that one as an excuse.  “Boss, I just can’t finish my work today because there’s this awful smell here.”  Just don’t blame it on the person in the next cubicle or your boss!

Yesterday I realized how grateful I am for the sense of smell.  As I arrived home, I inhaled a most aromatic odor – roasted chicken wrapped in bacon, baked to perfection by my hubby – which almost smelled as good to me as he does.     Nothing welcomes us like a house full of home-cooked aroma.

Helen Keller, who lost her sense of sight and hearing at an early age, once said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”

The aroma of fresh-cut grass transports me back to my childhood.  What about you? What smells conjure up pleasant memories for you?  Take a minute, reflect and share your thoughts on this 11th page, Chapter Three in my book called Opportunity.

“Don’t hurry.  Don’t worry.  You’re only here for a short visit.  So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” ~ Walter Hagen

©2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com