|Charlie, the 1973 wonder was also part of my childhood memories|
It is often said that are earliest scent memories we have, from the almost forgotten depths of our childhood shape a major part of our tastes and preferences later in life. It's hard to prove, of course, since memory is unreliable at best, and our earliest "recollections" are usually rolled together with family lore and photographs, and shrouded in myths and mists of time. I've spent some extra hours recently (blame the Benadryl) gathering a list of such memories, the earliest I could think of and ensure are real. Generally speaking, I have a freaky kind of memory. I may no longer recall new phone numbers or the license plate of my own car, but I can tell you who wore what at a particularly notorious party my friends and I had in December 1986. So my rule here was focusing on smells I remember from before starting preschool and the birth of my sister (both happened around the same time). This way I could be sure those are real, as they were strongly connected to the apartment our family inhabited at that time, to people who were no longer in our lives once we moved out, and to a very particular part of the city we left not long afterwords. These fragmented memories are amazingly clear in my mind and mostly verifiable ("Leave me out of this, you freak"---my sister. "Such a genius"--- my mother).
Very few of these scents are about actual perfume, and I can't see an influence on my taste in fragrance, but maybe you can offer a better insight. In any case, I would like to hear about your own very early olfactory experiences and whether you see them as forming your adult scented lives.
* The inside of a washing machine. This damp and metallic smell as well as the texture of the drum inside still take me back right there. I can't remember the detergent or the actual smell of the laundry, just the way the machine itself smelled to me, white and ominous.
* Our next door neighbor's cooking. A Moroccan immigrant, our neighbor Simmi made the best food in the world, and I still think so more than forty years later. A particular aroma of honey being heated with oil (I think that's the thing based on some recipes I've tried as an adult), small yeasty buns loaded with freshly ground pepper (I've found an Italian recipe years later that nearly made me pass out of happiness), and her incomparable fava beans. I've eaten at Moroccan restaurants in NYC and in Paris, but nothing compares to Simmi's food (or to her love).
* An outdoor market downtown. That one was and has always been unpleasant. Rotting vegetables rolling under the stands, blood from the butcher's shop, and the unmistakable smell of fish. All that combined with the general stench of a downtown area near a seaport. I have a feeling that parts of Elizabeth, NJ smell very similarly, but I have no intention to check.
* A weekend in summer. The interior of my dad's old Fiat nearly boiling and burning as we drive down to the beach, the dusty smell of the upholstered seats in the sun, and that first whiff of sea air. That was heaven, as were the overly salty french fries (too thin and overcooked), orange juice (not cold enough and with no trace of any orange that's found in nature, Kind of like Gatorade, now that I think of it).
* Maja soap. I talked about the actual perfume a couple of years ago, but my mom almost always had a few bars of the soap in her drawers, and the smell would fill the bedroom every time she opened them. It was weird and exotic to my little girls' mind. When my mom read my Maja post she sent me one of the soaps she still kept around (though I don't think this one hails from 1973, it's still incredible and is now perfuming my jammies and nightgowns).
|We had one that looked just like that. Photo via strawstickstone.com/|
* Kerosene heaters. I'm pretty sure my parents got rid of those after my sister was born, but winters in my very early childhood are steeped with this very potent smell. I remember one time that the fringes of the rug caught fire because of it.
* Let's end the list with the one item that's most connected to who I am today. The smell of a tiny Parfumerie downtown, a mom'n'pop store (more of a granny type, actually), where my mother bought her skincare (I think) and other various womanly items, and I thought was pure magic. Better than Disneyland, for sure. I remember one time that the lady at the store gave me a lipstick tester and an old green eye shadow to play with. That night my mom and I played "beauty parlor" as she worked hard to scrub all that color from my face. But the store itself had that distinct powdery makeup smell, and something that was probably a Chanel No.5 imitation (I'm certain they didn't sell Chanel over there).