A Heady Perfume of Memory



I had to pop into Boots this morning (itself a nostalgic experience as it's predecessor was one of my favourite chemists in Dublin upon moving here in 1995. Every time I step over the threshold I regret they've taken the old pharmacy's initials out of the mosaic) and as I had some time to spare, indulged myself by taking a trip down memory lane via their perfume counter. Nothing like a smell can trigger my memory so acutely that for a few seconds I am actually brought back in time.

My nostalgia initially brings me back to my junior & senior years in high school, when I wore Coco Chanel and Bijan exclusively. When I smell Coco, I can see my bedroom exactly as it was circa 1987.   During the Easter break of my senior year I was lucky to go on the school sponsored holiday to Greece. One whiff of Carolina Herrera and I'm right back there.

My years in university are punctuated by a Victoria's Secret perfume, Connemara, CK One (remember what a BIG DEAL it was that Calvin Klein marketed One for women AND men?) and Clinique's Happy. In that order. My mid20s heavily relied upon  Armani's Acqua di Gio and Calvin Klein's  Contradiction.  Both of which I smell now with bittersweet memories of the anxiety one feels when you finally graduate university and are ready to spread your wings but have no defined place in the world.



In my early thirties I worked in a small company which had an extremely smell sensitive CEO. Scented body lotion & deodorant weren't allowed, nevermind perfume/cologne. This period of my life is strangely devoid of any scent triggered memories.

And it's not just the perfumes I used to wear. Drakkar Noir reminds me of every single dude I went to Jr High with. They used to bathe in it, I swear. My female classmates in Jr High overused Giorgio and Poison to the extent that I'm still very off them, 30 years later.  Fahrenheit reminds me of my brother and the bathroom we shared. LouLou brings me back to sitting in a friend's bedroom, trying to decide what we'd wear to the next dance and talking about boys.  Jean Paul Gaultier reminds me of a boyfriend I had when I house shared in Fairview, circa 2000.  A fatally destined love affair has been forever immortalised for me in Bulgari's Blu and the bottle of Issey Miyake he gave to me shortly before we said goodbye for the last time.

I wonder what smells will remind me of being a new parent and trigger memories of the last few years? At the moment I'm mixing Jo Malone perfumes (my favourite right now is Wood sage & Seasalt mixed with anything or on it's own), which are so beautiful yet so gentle and subtle that I don't know if they'll have a lasting effect on my olfactory sense. Time will tell, I suppose. Perhaps a stronger smell associated memory for the years since I became a parent will be the Nag Champa & patchouli incense I routinely burn. (You can take the girl out of the West Coast, but not the West Coast out of the girl).

Cedar I associate with Seattle.  Its so strong that if I'm watching a home building show and cedar from the PNW is being used, I can nearly smell it.  If anyone I know used cedar cladding in / on their house, I'd probably routinely drop by just to sniff the panels.  And while I used to associate diesel with Dublin, this has been replaced by the smell of a turf fire and the soft smell of sea. I love this smell. That first autumn day when the air actually smells crisp and people start to light their fires...perfection.

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