The very creative Linda Rodin, she of the celebrated face oil, has created a fragrance to be launched on Mother’s Day called Rodin bis as homage to all the smells that she associates with her mother.
This item in the Sunday Times brought a smile to my face as well as a chuckle as I contemplated what smells would capture my memories of my Mom, still with me at 96. Scent is such a powerful thing. It can conjure up feelings of warmth, comfort, sexual attraction, or even repugnance. And a whiff of something can bring forgotten memories tumbling to the fore.
The first fragrance I connect with my mother is probably Avon face cream. She was a devotee for many years and, who knows? Maybe it is the reason her skin has been so moist and smooth for so long. Cinnamon and chocolate are components of her scent; she spent so much time baking that they became part of her aura, like the roses that she tended to blowsy fullness. And dare I say chicken fat?? She was a master of the Jewish dishes and rendered her own schmaltz. So a parfumeur would have to skillfully blend a base of face cream with rose petals, top note of chocolate, a dash of cinnamon, and just a soupcon of chicken fat to really capture her. Can’t imagine what he would name it! It would be contained in a flacon of heavy European lead crystal like that handed down from my grandmother to Mother to me. Though not as pretty on the bathroom counter, a plastic freezer container would also be appropriate and a nod to her practical side.
Mom loves fragrance and has always worn it but without much loyalty. White Shoulders, then Evening in Paris, and Shalimar when she was in the chips. When I was young, I would sit on her bed and watch her primp for an evening out of dancing, wearing a full skirted gown and open toe Spring-o-lator mules with 3” heels (high at the time). Then she would spritz her perfume around her, maybe a little on me. I thought her very glamorous.
From my teens I loved fragrance and progressed from her White Shoulders to Emeraude, to Chanel No. 5 and then segued to Opium in college. As I got older, my taste became more refined until, on my first trip to Paris, I discovered Annick Goutal. Her Eau d’Hadrien, so bracingly fresh, became an addiction and when I wore it near her, Mom too fell in love. Thereafter, I would buy her whatever I was wearing and she would savor it to the final drop.
When Thierry Mugler’s Angel appeared on the scene, it became my evening out fragrance, redolent of chocolate, vanilla and caramel. Every man I wore it with loved it. So, too, did Mom. Now I rotate always between a citrus based fragrance to refresh me in hotter times and climes, and Angel or a Comptoir Sud Pacifique vanille scent to warm me in colder ones. These are too heavy for her now. She likes the light, crisp grapefruit or lemon scents, a reference no doubt to the Meyer lemon tree she lovingly cultivates. At last count, her highly prolific tree had produced over 4400 lemons (yes she keeps track). I can never see or smell a lemon without thinking of her prized and abundant tree.
Soon I will be with her on Mother’s Day and when we share an embrace, always long, strong and heartfelt, I will drink in her scent, her essence. I can’t bottle it but it will be with me always.
*My mother passed away this morning at 3:25 a.m. PST.