Post by Catherine du Peloux Menage
APJ and the Sydney Perfume Lovers have teamed up to run monthly Sunday Scent Salons. Perfume evokes memories and few memories are deeper than those associated with a mother, which is how thirteen men and women, some of them complete strangers met to talk about Scents Of My Mother, bearing photographs, perfumes and recollections. It was a moving, warm and sometimes funny event.
Scents Of My Mother
Sydney Perfume Lovers Scent Salon
Complex is the best word to describe the relationships we brought to the table.
We met many mothers. The one who smoked a joint with her son on his 18th birthday, the one who said ‘disgusting’ about a daughter’s folds of flesh, the one who criticised her naturally slender daughter for deliberately being too thin, the one who still tidies up when entering her daughter’s home, the insightful one who told her son that she thought he probably wouldn’t marry a girl…
There was a gentle woman whose softness didn’t prepare her daughter for the tough world which awaited, the timid one who couldn’t give her daughter the strong role model she craved, the one who came out as a lesbian and couldn’t forgive her daughter for leading a different life. The one who had a child at 15 and brought him up with her own mother.
Many were artists or studied art. Few fulfilled themselves in the workplace. Many were clean and tidy freaks who always look good. (No prizes for making a connection between the last two sentences.) Many were critical, many were loving and most were both at the same time. Many of us around the table described our feelings of love or pain or both for Glenda, Jane, Lauraine, Cheryl, Marie, Rosemary, Waina, Joan, Francoise, Teresa.
What were our scent memories? One of us recollected trying to please her mother by making perfume for her by soaking flowers in water. Another brought biscuits from her mother’s handwritten recipe book to evoke the smell of baking. There were memories of babysitters arriving and mothers leaving in clouds of Chanel N’5, Chant d’Aromes and L’Air du Temps. I would love to have met the mother who wore Shalimar parfum during the day. Her child was fated not to be timid!
Fresh green beans evoked one mother who survived breast cancer. Another always had acrid smelling salts in the bathroom cupboard in case they were needed and wore Arpege – a startling juxtaposition. Rive Gauche featured twice. It is still worn today by one daughter to differentiate herself as the opposite to her mother who like more run of the mill Avon fragrances, and was worn by another mother when it came out to stamp herself as modern. She also wore Tabu and Oleg Cassini. We encountered one generous perfume collector mother with over 300 bottles who loves giving her daughter bottles of Serge Lutens as well as one who never wears scent but does have scented handcream which smells like Fragonard’s Billet Doux. Cie Perfume (with Candace Bergen as its face) was an early favourite of a mother who also wore Tresor but now is faithful to Champs Elysees. La Cabrasella, a bergamot citrus scent from Calabria has always sat on the dressing table of one Italian mother.
We could have talked for many more hours and left feeling happy to have shared these perfumes and memories. I’m sure another Scent Salon will revisit this topic one day for another group.