Scent is our strongest memory trigger. I know my earliest memories involve scent….being a wee sprog and getting into my mum’s make up. Her luxe cake mascara and those 60s lipsticks had a distinct rose scent that has been reproduced in few perfumes, notably Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose and my favourite, L’Artisan Parfumeur Drole de Rose, and a whiff of those perfumes send me reeling back in time. There are those unmistakable seasonal scents as well- you know, when you can “smell” fall in the air as those summer days get shorter. Or that hopeful whiff of spring as the days get longer after a long cold winter. The smell of fall takes me back to school days and, another smell, sharpening my HB pencils and the smell of the inside of those wooden desks. So, you get what I mean by scent and memory, right? I’m sure you all have a friend or family member who wears a perfume or cologne that you will forever associate with them, one you likely wouldn’t buy for yourself because it really shares an identity with the wearer.
My step mother (Omi to my daughters) has a signature scent that I have always liked. It’s a beautiful and classic citrus scent, one of those sort of citrus chypre scents that aren’t made just for summer days. They have a rich mossy base, and hail from the 70s when some of my favourite perfumes came to be. Her scent is Lancome “O” de Lancome, a citrus scent launched in 1969. It is one of the more soft and floral citrus scents of the era, my other favourite being Dior Diorella. Diorella has a more mossy and dare I say, carnal, base. And Creed’s sadly discontinued Aubepine Acacia, which is really just a pretender of a citrus, although it has the same feel and vibe of “O” and Diorella, with more of the floral feel of “O”. The Lancome scent is heavily associated with my step mother, and I could never wear it, as much as I love it. It is really just “her”. It’s modern and classic at the same time, and fresh and clean while being warm and feminine. If you haven’t tried it and you enjoy uplifting citrus scents, check it out at the Lancome counter.
So this story is about my daughter Biddy. She was born around 5 weeks too early, and at one point weighed under 5 lbs. Considering she is now taller than I am, it still amazes me to recall how wee she was. So, being so small and sleepy, she had to stay in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) ward for a week after she was born. Yes, I went home without my baby. It was gut wrenching, but I felt blessed to live a few blocks away from the hospital. At the time, my step mother headed up the volunteer auxillary at the hospital where Biddy was staying. I would drive to the hospital to feed Biddy every 2-3 hours. I’d spend most of the day there, feeding and snuggling her. Close physical skin to skin contact helps babies grow so I did lots of that. But one of the most beautiful memories I have would be arriving at the NICU early in the morning. It was the end of January, so it was cold, blustery and dark outside. The nurses (aka saints) would be silently fussing around, feeding and cradling the impossibly tiny babies, and I would sit on a rocking chair, cradling Biddy. But- almost every morning, I noticed when I picked her up, that she had a distinctly non-new-baby scent about her. That she smelled like, well, a lovely citrus perfume. Turns out, my stepmother would often get to the hospital before me, and her first stop was to the NICU. She would settle in to rock and snuggle Biddy before starting her work. There was something so comforting about knowing that even before I arrived, Biddy was getting rocked and sung to, and that she was learning the smells of the people who loved her.
To this day, if either of my daughters smell “O” de Lancome, the first thing they say is “oh, that is Omi’s perfume”. And I suspect for them, and for me, it always will be.
Do you have a treasured scent memory?
“O” de Lancome is available at Lancome counters. There are several newer flanker releases of the original, but my favourite will always be just “O” de Lancome….