The Fragrance of Memory
It was fun to watch Mom put on makeup because it meant she and Dad were going out, or people were coming in. It was exciting either way.
She’d stand in front of the mirror and begin by stroking the lipstick three times right in the middle of her upper lip. Lipstick to the right, then to the left, a quick schmear on the bottom lip, and then she’d move both lips together a few times to even out the coverage.
She’d blot with a piece of toilet paper and that was the extent of her “toilette.” There might have been some eyebrow pencil going on but I mostly remember the lipstick. I can see her now in my mind’s eye. What a good memory.
My family didn’t air kiss. You got kissed on the lips or on the cheek. And if you got lipsticked somebody was always there to rub it off, taking two or three layers of skin with it.
Mom only wore perfume when she dressed up. And it was always Chanel Number 5. She’d spray it on one wrist and then rub both wrists together. She smelled so good.
When I find myself by a perfume counter I always test the sample. The aroma carries me back to Mom. I hear her high heels on the wooden floor and the jangling of her bracelets. Funny how we have a mind’s “nose” and a mind’s “ear” too.
This past Christmas when I was mall-walking and Macy’s opened early for holiday shoppers I think I made a pest of myself at the perfume counter. I hoped the Chanel Number 5 would go on sale; it never did. They probably had to break out a new sample bottle.
Recently, I finally got up the energy to clean out more of Mom’s things. She’s been gone over a year now, but I haven’t been in any hurry to tackle the stuff left behind when she moved out of my house and into Assisted Living in 2006. To my great surprise I found three bottles of Chanel Number 5! She hadn’t worn perfume for a really long time. I think she was saving it.
So, for the last few months I’ve been wearing exorbitantly expensive perfume around the house. I’m not saving it. I squirt it on one wrist and then rub both of my wrists together just like Mom did, even if I’m wearing jeans and sneakers. And throughout the day I sniff my wrists and bring back Mom to my mind’s eye. She’s young and healthy, and she remembers my name, and I tell her how much I miss her. And that I will always love her.
Thanks for the perfume, Mom.