Smells and memories

I am attached to smells for the memories they bring.

The smell of fig trees reminds me of my first time in Corsica, as a child, as I was visiting my aunt. Her house is in the mountains, in a small village. The sweet and powdery smell of fig trees was everywhere on the path around the village. I was 10 years old and I hadn’t smelled fig trees before. It’s unrelated to smells but I hadn’t seen donkeys before either and I “met” them during this holiday. One even stepped on my toe and I thought the animal was heavy but I would have imagined the resulting pain to be bigger.

The yellow Dop shampoo brings me back to a summer in the late 80s or possibly in the early 90s. I was around 15 years old. I was at my grand-parents’ house in the country (Bévenais, Isère). The fresh smell reminds me of counting goldfish in the little pond and petting the neighbour’s kittehs. Madame Guidy had named one of them “Kitty” after my suggestion. Thinking about this moment brings back memories of being impressed by the powerful car of my grand-father and enjoying how fast he was driving, compared to my father. I’m also reminded of hanging my towel to dry out the window and being lectured by my grand-father that this was not Italy and to please, bring that towel back in the bathroom immediately. How peculiar that was considering there was no neighbour or passer-by to see that towel hanging. Of “inside the house”, I have few memories. Oddly enough the clearest is that of the water closet. A fantastic and interesting hiding place. It had windows on all three sides of the room and although there wasn’t much happening in the garden I remember I liked to stay there and watch, and think. Also the little room was home to the collection of Readers’ Digest. I was reading them for hours as we had no magazines at home. I was very often ordered to vacate the facility 😉 I also remember helping my grand-mother with some chores, like doing the dishes. We were to clean them before putting them in the dish-washer (go figure), and we were to dry them thoroughly afterwards.

The fragrance of Pleasures, by Estée Lauder, makes me travel back to Edinburgh in Scotland, some 12 years ago. I was wearing that perfume when I was studying there. A whiff of Pleasures and I find myself walking down Lothian Road, turning toward the restaurant Fat Sam and waiting at the bus stop to go to college. The wind was cold, so cold it was biting my ears. But the smell of the perfume was around me because of the wind. I returned to Edinburgh several times, since then, and made sure to bring the perfume with me.

The smell of the henna hair conditioner by Timotei turns instantly my bathroom into one of the shower cabins I was using in March 2005 when I was vacationing in New Zealand. For example, I often find myself in the shower block at the awesome and original Napier Prison Backpackers. One thing leading to another, at least for the duration of the hair care, I can revisit any part of New Zealand that I know from the fabulous 3-week holiday.

Of the numerous perfumes I wear, there is another one that brings me memories. L’Eau d’Issey (it sounds like “l’Odyssée”) by Issey Miyake reminds me of Roslindale, of Boston, of Amy and our huge collection of good moments. I had it when I was living in the US and A and I had several others, one of which (the Rose Essentielle by Bulgari) made Amy a little nauseous (sorry!). I took L’Eau d’Issey with me to the hospital where I gave birth to Adrien, because a colleague of mine had advised me to bring a perfume that I like. Her theory being that a familiar and pleasant smell fosters wellness and good spirits. Now, the smell of this fragrance reminds me of Adrien, of his godmother Amy and of the places I was when he was growing inside me.