Perfume brings back waves of memories

December 30, 2023
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The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is sort of a Twilight Zone, no work to go to, no meetings, time seems to stand still.

So I decided to start sorting out the piles of stuff that have accumulated in my house. Today, I tackled my makeup table, two drawers and a flip-top mirror that could close flat to hide a well full of all my stuff. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to close the mirror in years because of the clutter and due to the beads and necklaces draped over it.

I don’t wear a lot of makeup, but I have a tendency to never throw anything away “just in case.” Today, I was ruthless. A dozen tubes of lipstick that I never wear – gone. Nail polish that didn’t resemble its original color – gone. Scrunchies for my hair (I don’t wear scrunchies) – donation pile. Eye shadow (when was the last time I wore eye shadow?) – better keep “just in case.”

As I waded through the dust, clumps of powder and stray earrings, I tossed things into piles and the trash, slowly working my way to the back of the sunken well in the table. And there it was.

Tucked in the back of my makeup table were two little bottles of Royal Secret, which I have never worn. My grandmother loved Royal Secret, wearing the powder, perfume and cologne every day. The smell always lingered in her home, her packages and her hugs. I can’t smell the sweet fragrance without thinking of her.

I don’t wear perfume, ever. But when my grandmother died in 2009, I found her final two bottles of Royal Secret and brought them home. I put them in my dressing table, where they were soon buried by bracelets, beads and moisturizer tubes.

Sitting at the table, I popped open the spray bottle of Royal Secret cologne and sprayed it into the air. And gagged. Turns out Royal Secret cologne does not age well. My husband walked in and asked why our bedroom smelled like his grandmother. Time to part with the cologne.

Tentatively, I opened the small bottle of perfume. Would it have spoiled, too? Was my grandmother really gone?

And there she was. The sweet smell brought back clean, perfumed sheets pulled up over my nose when  I spent the night at her house, our endless card games and domino battles, her lemon pies with delicate swirls of meringue, the whoosh of her old floor furnace, the stacks of fabric in her sewing room and the fancy furniture in her parlor.

My Granny was a personality: hard-core Southern Baptist, reluctant cook, fabulous seamstress and terrible driver. She lived to almost 90, spending 40 alone after my grandfather died. She was stubborn, she was proud, she was small in stature, she was strong.

And she loved me.

One whiff and my grandmother was there, made all the more poignant because of the Christmas holiday and because this was the year that I became a grandmother, too.

I smiled and put the bottle back on my makeup table where it will stay forever, just like my memories of her.

- Amanda Rogers is the editor and publisher of the Mansfield Record.

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