Yesterday for the first time in five years, I bought a different brand of deodorant and all of a sudden I was seventeen again. Back then the slightly exotic scent of Soft and Gentle Nighttime deodorant held the promise of much more than nights spent sat in the cinema, chastely holding hands with my first proper boyfriend. It was then and it is still is now the scent of nights on the town, of too much cheap wine and the thrill of flirtation. It is who I was and who, at times I still ache to be, and nothing evokes that time more…
Scent is the most evocative of all our senses. We close our eyes and sometimes before we see in our minds eye, a memory, we smell it. We walk into a room, or pull out a drawer and we are instantly taken back to a time long forgotten. We press the clothes of our loved ones to our faces and remember who they are. Who they were. Who we wanted them to be. We enter a house and know, unequivocably, that we could never live there, even before we have got past the entrance hall. All this because scent pervades our memory like nothing else does. In spite of the fact that we only acknowledge it long after we have forgotton how things looked. The way we felt back then.
We all have a closet full of fragrant memories. For me it is the scent of dying bananas in the tiny hospital room in which we watched my Nana fade away. The smell of cigarettes and cider on my Daddys breath late at night when I’d had a bad dream. The Oscar De La Renta perfume my Mum used to wear. It is the smell of Mark as I press my face into his back as he sleeps. An olfactory yearning for my Mums Sunday dinner and the stuffy slightly off fragrance of my Nanas wardobe. The oddly sweet scent of my sons nappies that sub-conciously told me there was something not right, and the cosy fragrance of freshly polished timber floors that told me that this would be our home. Here we would be happy. It is the overtly sexual smell of the Opium I wore as a teenager and the brush of lavender against my legs as I walk up the tiny little path to our door. The stale smell of breast milk in the days after my baby was born, and the cooling scent of the 4711 perfume my Mum blessed me with when I was pregnant and thought I would die in the heat.
It is my son. My house. My relationship and my childhood.
It is all these things and so much more.