My Serge Drawer: Friday Guest Post

(hi, folks — here’s a guest post by Nava, a regular reader and contributor at Perfume Critic and Makeupalley, and a commenter at the Posse as well as other scented and unscented blogs. She lives in New York with her husband and cat, and loves to be a contrarian in her spare time.)

I am convinced the act of hoarding is hereditary. The female members of my immediate family have proven to be fine examples of this art of “collecting”. My maternal grandmother hoarded food; she survived the Great Depression after emigrating from Poland to Canada after World War I. In better times she also hoarded bed linens, table cloths and tea towels. We´re not talking cheap stuff, either. The finest Irish linen you could bargain for on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, purchased during a time when you could bargain for such things. Unfortunately, I never got to witness my grandmother in all her bargaining-mode glory, but I did see all her purchases come tumbling out of the hall closet after her death when I was 9 years-old. As my mother cleaned out her apartment, she could not bear to part with all the pristine linens that never graced a bed or table. Since my mom´s passing, they now reside carefully stored in my attic, along with other family treasures. But the hoarding did not end there.

I have a Serge Drawer. Yes, a drawer that contains nothing but Serge Lutens fragrances. My drawer is not part of a girly, organza-skirted vanity table or antique armoire; it is one nondescript drawer of a 17 year-old Ikea pressboard dresser that I bought when I moved into my first apartment. I used to keep underwear in this particular drawer. It is a top drawer after all. But now it houses 15 export bottles and 23 bell jars, all of them still shrink-wrapped and just as pristine as my grandmother´s 50 year-old linens. I cannot bring myself to unwrap them, much less consider wearing them. I wish my Bubbie Sarah was still around so I could ask her why she bought all those linens if she never intended to use them. Then, maybe I´d have some insight into my own peccadillo, and an answer to why I never touch any of these bottles of fragrance.

I think a goodly amount of my reticence stems from the exclusivity of the Serge Lutens line, the fact that most of them are only available in one specific place in one particular city. My husband and I took a vacation to Dublin and London 3-1/2 years ago, and journeyed via Eurostar through the Chunnel from London to Paris. Since we were spending only one day in the City of Light, I had only three must-see destinations: the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa (we were, after all, tourists), and the Salons du Shiseido. My husband was quite the good sport whilst I pillaged the Salons; he waited outside. When I finally emerged, we made our way out of the Palais Royale and over to the Louvre so we could do a mad dash through as much of it as possible (reference Mark Twain´s images of American tourists in Innocents Abroad running through the Vatican Museum to get to the Sistine Chapel; been there, done that, too). As we approached the glass pyramid, I wondered why there were not more people milling about, despite the fact that we descended on Paris on a very grey, chilly November day. It was a Tuesday, and you would think we would have known that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. No such luck. No mention of it either from the lovely French girl at the concierge desk in our London hotel who very happily almost booked us 2 first class Eurostar tickets which would have set us back about £800. Of course, I prevented that from happening.

Turned away at the Louvre, myself, my husband and my 4 bell jars (Rahat Loukhoum, Muscs Koublai Khan, Bois et Fruits and Cuir Mauresque) went stomping all the way down the Champs-à‰lysées, to the Avenue Montaigne, past every designer shop and the Plaza Athinée, without even pausing to look at anything. I was following the Eiffel Tower, just like I used to follow the CN Tower all over the city of Toronto when I was a kid. I was a woman on a mission. I kept thinking, OK, I can still make two out of three, with the Meat Loaf song “Two Out of Three Ain´t Bad” earworming its way through my head the entire time.

When we finally reached the tower, and while waiting in line to buy tickets, I noticed what I presumed to be an American couple standing in the snaking line. What gave them away was that the woman was carrying the Frommer´s Guide to Paris, something I flat out refused to buy since I didn´t think we´d need it; we were only going to be there for one lousy day. Armed with just my trà¨s, trà¨s mal university French and a fistful of Euros, I thought we´d be fine. Of course I inquired of this woman, “Could you please tell me if your guide says which day of the week the Louvre is closed?” She, a very nice lady from Des Moines Iowa traveling with her husband, graciously informed me, “Uh, it says here the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.” Upon hearing that news, I believe I turned a shade of red non-existent in nature. At least that´s what my husband claims.

On the train back to London, I clutched my bottles of fragrance with the vehemence of a lioness guarding her newborn cubs. I couldn´t help it; they were the most significant souvenirs of my trip, along with my disappointment and frustration. I vowed I was going to hunt down that French concierge girl and beat her senseless for not informing us that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. I did make mention that it was one of our planned destinations, but alas, for reasons not known, she never communicated that little tidbit of information. I remain disappointed to this day, since I have not been back to Paris. A travel journalist friend of mine loves to tell people that you should never go anywhere thinking that you will never revisit the place you are going to. Of course, he traverses the globe on the good graces of the airlines and stays at the best hotels in the world for a mere fraction of what Joe Schmo tourist would pay. In all fairness, I must mention that our trip was made possible by his contacts, and if not for them, would have cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a loaded Toyota Corolla.

As I previously mentioned, my Serge Lutens collection has grown significantly from the original 4 bottles. The “export” fragrances can be had fairly easily, but there is just something about those bell jars that elicits a powerful I´ll-walk-barefoot-over-broken- glass-then-wade-waist-deep-through-raw-sewage urge to get my hands on them. I have gone through backchannels and shopping services and of course, the ubiquitous auction site to obtain my bottles. I don´t consider myself overly materialistic, but I will admit that my Serge Drawer houses some of my most prized possessions. I still harbor the dream of going back to Paris one day and re-visiting the Salons, and going back to the Louvre, of course; just not on a Tuesday.

69 Comments

  1. Are the unopened boxes in your drawer backups or is that the whole stash? If it’s the latter, if they aren’t seen as an investment in the event Shiseido discontinues them, please use them; enjoy them! Life is short.

    I wonder if you need an insurance rider on those fragrances. Mine says any collection over $1K…

    I would love to see your collection, and I would have loved to have seen your grandmother’s linen collection too. I was saving linens from my grandmother too, until I realized one day I would surely die and that whoever got them after me would never appreciate them like I do. (No kids.) Now I used them all the time and always think of her when I see them. The crochet on the edges is disappearing, but the embroidery is still as beautiful as the day she did it. I’m glad they are on my bed.

    Thanks for writing! I wish you luck in seeing the Louvre at some point!

    • Debbie,

      That’s the entire stash housed in that drawer. I also have the wax samples that the SA at the Salons gave me with my purchases. What can I say? 🙂

      I do actually use some of the scents on occasion, but my main fear is that they will turn on me. When I say they are still “shrink-wrapped”, that means I carefully cut away the top part of the cellophane on some of the boxes so I can open them up, but left the rest intact. In my experience, this slows the “aging process”!

      • Leaving the cellophane on the boxes keeps them fresh longer? Aack. And I am having trouble leaving them in the boxes. I so much love the glint of light on glass and liquid. I am glad to hear, however, that you are using them occasionally.

  2. What a great post! What is it with the linens?? My heritage is also Polish and all the females hoard linens like they were priceless jewels descended from heaven – and they never get used. What is that? Being a newbie to decants – my secret hoarding obsession right now is ANY perfume that can’t be bought in Australia – and sad to say that is quite a bit. Each day I look lovingly upon my make-up drawer that is now being smothered by endless samples and decants. Will need a whole new drawer soon. Then a cupboard. Maybe a whole room . . . Bliss :”>

    • Oops! I replied to your comment below Eva. Not sure what happened. Sorry!

  3. I loved reading this and I applaud your choices of the first four.

    23 Bell Jars? Don’t ever give me your address! 🙂

    • Thanks!

      Lily, my attack cat, usually sleeps vigil in front of my dresser. No worries…:d

      • Nava: I would love to meet Lilly, your attack cat. I bet she guards your stash well. So far, I haven’t really gotten into the Lutens perfumes yet, but I am a perfume bottle maniac, so I try not to think about the bell jars too much yet. My husband and I are semi-antique dealers, and have seen the results of the hoard mentality often. We have unearthed loads of the wonderful linens that people stash away, and it’s better if you use them, cause the dust mites will damage them. As to perfume matters, for our 25th anniversary, I saw a bottle of Jicky pure parfum on the Perfumed Court which I just had to have and now that I’ve got it, I don’t know if I can bear to open it. It’s just so beautiful! I just might have to get by on decants! Next time you go to Paris, be sure to go by that hotel and give the lovely French girl at the concierge desk a whack upside the head for not being more helpful. Have a good weekend. I don’t know when I have laughed so hard!

  4. You are cleverer than I. You see, I’d open up those bottles and use them twice a year each, not reapplying. Then one of two things would happen: I’d forget I had them and be pleasantly surprised by Chypre Rouge some dull autumn day, or I would acquire a deep unfamiliarity with the preferences of the person I was when I bought the bottle and I’d wish I had purchased whatever it was I vacillated about in selecting the bottle that now seemed contentious and strange.

    Either way, any given bottle could last years. I still have 80% remaining in a bottle of Ambre Sultan that I bought in 2004. I fill the other 363 days a year when I do not wear AS with parsimonious squirts of other Lutenses (or Malles; I have not yet acquired the taste for ) and a bottle of Bulgari Omnia.

    I used to be terrified to open something, afraid I would have to replace it sooner than expected and this would gum up the works. I had a list of pre-planned future purchases and any purchase outside this agenda would cause the whole thing to go fall into disarray. The ensuing quandary and its kinship to OCD was not pretty. I’m pretty sure I made facial contortions during deliberations that were likewise unbecoming.

    The problem was solved by the crawl of the dollar towards infirmity and the alarming rise in niche fragrance prices. For that many smackeroos, just smack me upside the head.

    A wonderful post that had me alternately laughing and grimacing in recognition.

    • Thanks Sally.

      I did buy a bottle of the new export, 5 O’Clock Au Gingembre last week, and have used it 4 times so far. Baby steps…

  5. Hmmm, hoarding you say? Would my 7 back-up bottles of the reportedly now-discontinued Black Cashmere count for this diagnosis? What about those extra David Yurman rings, in case my favorite style is discontinued? Or the 8 pints (re, 7after last night) of Tax Crunch ice cream in my freezer, only available at Baskin Robbins for a month before and after April 15? Guilty as charged…:)

    I blame it all on my relatives as well-when my aunt died, it took 8 months to unearth all the antique jewels boxed, frozen (yup, some were literally on ice), and hidden in her condo. She never lacked for baubles. My own mom, who always loved a sale, left behind several hundred garments, many from Ross and TJ, tags still on. Oh, and my Dad’s collection of still-wrapped CDs of classical music…I do think there is a bit of Shtetl mentality at work-just in case of the pogrom, we are always prepared. And for me, that counts smelling good as the Czars troops descend :”>

    You must love your pet SLs. Do you take them out and admire them, cooing? I certainly would, feeling comforted just knowing they are there for you.

    • Louise,

      The shtetl mentality has definitely filtered down to my generation. Fragrance is not the only item I tend to hoard, but that’s another story for another post. 🙂

  6. I fantasize about my first bell jar… what will it be: Rose de Nuit, Bois de Violette or will I be swooned by a surprise choice? Am savouring the moment I will eventually enter the Salons, I have actually dreamt of it. It makes me feel a child again, the world being an unopened treasure chest.

    I also adore bed linen and I hoard a fair bit. Like perfume, it is a very personal pleasure. My grandmother had a fabled collection but it was taken during WWII: she spent most of her old years buying us replacements for our dowry but I often wonder where those beautiful embroided antique lost sheets and table cloths are.

    You have given me a bunch of happy Friday feelings, thanks !

    • You are so welcome, Silvia.

      I hope you get to the Salons one day very soon. 🙂

  7. Alright, anyone reading the Posse who doesn’t see themselves in the above post in some shape or form please raise their hand. See, just as I thought, not a single hand in the air.

    Great post. BTW, Thanks. Now I am stickin’ to the hereditary explanation. It takes the blame, I mean pressure off me. I had a Great Depression hoarder Irish grandmother, Maude, who saved bits of string, broken rubber bands and…. the reason I can NEVER eat Jello…. a special recipe. She tripled the amount of water you were supposed to use according to the box. Yuck! Slivery, congealed water, having only the memory of an artificial flavor somewhere in its past. Yum! I’m thankful the gene didn’t present itself in a way that would cause me to hoard Jello boxes!

    :)>-

    • Anne,

      We cannot escape our heritage. Whether it be runny Jell-O or the Jewish delicacies my grandmother would cook that I can’t for the life of me replicate, we are who we are because them. Hands by my side and not in the air, by the way!

  8. Nava !
    Sister mine…

    1998, a brief window of opportunity- B and I took the boys to Europe.
    Last stop- Paris, and the Holy Grail- yup, Palais Royal.
    I laughed myself sick reading about your visit, and your drawer.
    And felt sorrow, when you described your mother.

    I suspect that many who survived the Great Depression hoarded- for some, it was luxury- for others, it was soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.

    Yes, I’m ruefully regarding the rocking chair with its seemingly permanent pile of tidy , clean, folded clothing.
    It belongs in the dresser-
    But the DRESSER is filled with bottles, pipettes.
    All the drawers.

    • Chaya,

      The first items I always go for at Costco are the toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. You can never have enough as far as I’m concerned!

      Thanks for your kind words; they are the validation every writer wishes for.
      🙂

  9. Chaya – I think you may be on to something. My grandfather was a hobo during the Great Depression and both grandma and grandpa refused to spend money and hoarded what they had. For them, it was food.

    Upon their death, we found spices that were more than 30 years old and frozen meat that had a weird green sheen to it.

    :-&

    That habit seems to have carried over to my family. Overflowing refrigerators and the notorious “wall of food” at my parent’s house.

    For me – it is a sample basket and perfume shelves that are slowly threatening to take over my bedroom.

    • There’s a movie Albert Brooks made about 10 years ago called “Mother” which is absolutely hysterical. In one scene his mother, played by Debbie Reynolds, attempts to feed him dinner with painfully old leftover food, and he accuses her of “running a food museum.” Rent it immediately, if not sooner!

  10. I totally feel ya on hoarding, guilty, guilty, guilty! And there’s something about having some backups of favorites that makes me sleep better at night.

    Welcome!

  11. Great story! I have 5 bottles of Mitsouko, preparing for the reformulation. I even keep one with my parents just in case something were to happen with mine. I feel your pain!

    I don’t think I would be able to keep them still wrapped in the plastic though…I’d want to at least look at the bottles!

    • did you check-out the Costco website? Excellent price on the Mitsouko EdP that lists “Tree Moss Extract” in the ingredients – is this pre-reformulation? Not that I’ve bought more than one, just in case, cause you never know…. :d

      • Last I checked, they had only reformulated the EDT, so stock up on those EDP’s! I guess the “new” EDT isn’t SO horrible, its just not the same. Change is bad.

    • Thanks Dane. If I loved Mitsouko, which, unfortunately doesn’t love me, I’d be doing the same thing. It’s nice to know we’re not alone, right? 🙂

  12. Thank you Eva!

    Since I choose to spend my disposable income on fragrance, I don’t have a stash of Porthault or Pratesi linens in my home. I imagine those would be the equivalent of the Irish linens my grandmother bought over a half-century ago. The old stuff is much more beautiful, anyway! I think my mom and my grandmother would agree. 🙂

  13. guilty as charged as well, but with two differences – 1) I’m a newbie so my stash isn’t as big and 2) I open them and use them with wild abandon (says she who just put on 4 full spritzes of Mitsouko with “Tree Moss” listed in the ingredients). ‘Cause if I die tomorrow, I’ll smell beautiful and will have at least enjoyed a chunk of the beauty in this world.
    Well, okay, okay – using them also gives me the excuse to get more, just in case… :d

    • P.S. – thanks for an great post and being willing to put your ‘confession’ out there. Bravo! =d>

      • Thank you Kim. I just knew I’d have lots of company!

  14. What a wonderful collection of SLs! And I feel your pain over missing out on going to the Louvre. But that *does* give you a powerful reason to get back to Paris and (post Louvre visit) drop in at the PR to bump that SL bell jar collection up to a nice even 30 – sounding like Monk here. 🙂

    • Thanks, Elle. My Serge Drawer is at capacity, so any new additions will have to be housed elsewhere. I’m sure that won’t stop me though. :d

  15. Nava – Thank you for a great post. And Louise, thank you for putting a name on my “hoarding-affliction” – shtetl mentality. I like that – being a member of that club definitely explains it. /:)

  16. What a wonderful post with such great responses! (I especially loved Louise’s). I think a sidebar of the “depression mentality” is the “it’s too good to use” response. When my beloved aunt died, I found every single fragrance product and item of clothing I’d ever given her carefully wrapped in tissue, clearly never used, put neatly away in her closet.. I haven’t started hoarding fragrance (yet!) but I have a collection of vintage cocktail napkins, some of which I will never use because I dread getting l lipstick, grease, redd wine, anything, on them. So I open the drawer and oooh and ahhh.
    I can certainly understand Nava’s pleasure in her collection’s beauty, potential, and the knowledge that IT’S ALL HERS !:)

    • Whoa! I *can* spell but I think Macs may not play so well with the comments box!

    • Thanks Francesca!

      I’ve heard that “it’s too good to use” or “save it for a special occasion” rationale many, many times over the course of my lifetime. 🙂

    • “Too good to use” runs in my family, I’m afraid. My grandmother kept her living room furniture under plastic, and when she passed away she left me some lovely jewelry that no one in the family had ever seen her wear.

      My first bell jar came in the mail yesterday (nothing as grand as Salons for me), and I’ll admit I left it sealed and wore something else this morning. I’ll have to fight the hoarding impulse a little harder tomorrow. 🙂

  17. Nava,

    What a lovely, funny, poignant post! Thank you for sharing. Those “if it’s Tuesday” stories are legend!

    As far as hoarding goes, my mother was a great hoarder and upon her death I found 30 or so Mrs Butterworth bottles washed and wrapped, in the storage closet in the basement. I remembered that she was convinced that they would become collector’s items and was saving for just that day. Same with china/linens/all the lovely little gifts I’d given her…

    …when my dad later remarried, I gave my stepmother all sorts of lovely bath and beauty items…she would smile, clutch them to her bosom and say “I’m going to save this”. She suffered a stroke about a year ago and all that stuff is …well, you already know the story.

    I, too, hoarded and saved (esp. vintage linens)…then one lovely, sunny Sunday morning I nearly ended my life in a horrific motorcycle crash. One minute I was sailing along on my beloved bike…the next I was flying through the air – a human missile – at 65mph! Shockingly, I walked away from that crash but for about 30 minutes it was hit or miss whether I would survive the shock. In that 30 minutes I vowed to change my approach to Life – now I enjoy everything with abandon – hell, I even opened a bottle of vintage Billecart-Salmon recently because I felt like it. It was divine!

    So, if you can, try to enjoy your bell-jars and pipettes and bottles….it’s painful at first but then there’s a sense of freedom that is so exhilarating! And you’ll smell soooo good!

    Bring down those linens, too! I just used a set of Venetian lace-trimmed napkins for a pot-roast dinner last night. Lovely!

    [email protected]};-

    • Wow, Musette! If I had been trhough an ordeal like yours, I’m sure I would reconsider my hoarding! I’va had a couple of close-call “fender-benders” but nothing like what you just described.

      I do dip into certain bottles “occasionally”. And I’m rethinking that $20 bottle of cheap Barolo I was going to crack open tonight. Maybe it’s time for something a bit more extravagant. $-)

  18. Nava–I can completely relate to your story about going to Paris on a Tuesday and being unable visit the Louvre because it is closed on Tuesdays.

    That’s exactly what happened to my husband and me in April 1995. We only had one day in Paris, a Tuesday. We marched down the Champs Elysees, through the Tulerieres to the museum, only to discover that it’s closed on Tuesdays. Huh? Tuesdays? We would have thought Mondays, even Sundays, but Tuesdays?

    Anyway, we vowed to return to Paris…And we did…And this time we visited the Louvre on a Saturday, Bastille Day no less, when admission to the museum is free! And, if free admission was not enough of a bonus, military jets celebrating the holiday flew over the Louvre just as I was gazing up through I.M. Pei’s magnificent pyramid. I will never forget the excitement and wonder of that moment.

    And you’ll go back to Paris, too, my friend. I just know you will!

    Hugs!

    • I’m sure I’ll get back there one day. I certainly hope the Parisians re-think their museum closures, since all the major museums in London are open all week, as far as I know. Here in New York it is also a bit tricky since the big ones are all closed one day a week as well. I’m not a very good tourist!

  19. I know my mother and grandparents were food hoarders, but I seem to have gotten a slightly altered version: I’m a collector. I love to collect books, music, perfume, shoes, costumes, art, whatever. I think the difference is that I put my collection to work–the perfume gets sprayed, the shoes get worn, and the art gets traded as it gains value. I don’t like to have things just to have them; I need to be getting something out of the relationship as well!

    • I use much of my perfume collection, but there’s just something about Serge that triggers my hoarding instinct. 🙂

  20. I laughed when I saw your post today. I just came home from New York and was spending part of an evening in front of my perfume boxes (I’m an avid organizer), trying to reconnect with them since sudden spatial changes affect me on a profound level. I smelled each, the sniffs grounding me one-by-one at first. Then, chaos reinserted itself. I have so much. I am a collector. There, I’ve said it. I love to collect certain lines. I love to collect singularities of beauty: a perfect iris, a perfect rose, a perfect leather. My sniffing time in New York was the search for a perfect incense, a perfect vetiver, a perfect (fill in the gap) that I may have not entered my world here in Iowa. And, last night, I began to hope beyond hope that I can empty them all in the time I have in the world, because they are too luscious to waste away because I have only so much skin.

    I have been a collector of certain things all my life, but I am fiercely devoted to using them until they fall apart–which may be why the collection of perfumes unsettled me, because that may be impossible. I didn’t grow up in a family of collectors. I think we were too poor. Instead, we were a family of reusers. All the scraps of paper were cut and retaped into notepads by my grandfather, for instance, because nothing should be thrown out if it could be used further. So it was a shock to my system when my mother pulled out a tablecloth embroidered by nuns that she commissioned for my birth. It took two years for her to receive it. It was her one flamboyant purchase when living as a military wife in Germany. The marriage grew dark, she left with my sister and I in the middle of the night, and one suitcase carried everything back to Kentucky. That tablecloth earned a place in the suitcase, appearing at her doorstep the week before we left. Thirty years later, she pulled it out. It had never been unfolded. And unknown to her, it needed to be washed immediately, as blue markings for the embroidery still remained. She, of course, never pulled it out because it was too special: the one item from Germany, the one item from a failed marriage she never got over. For myself, the blue markings give the tablecloth the meaning that it could never have otherwise, and I shall inherit it with them still in the cloth. And I don’t know if I’ll ever use it either.

    Textiles…One of the interesting things for me in reading the comments from everyone here is the common thread of hoarded textiles, whether that be linens or clothes. That, too, is the primary thing I’ve collected. I have shelves and shelves of Indian textiles, collected from master weavers. I also have an entire wardrobe of Brigitte Singh, whose hand-printed Mughal patterns have no place in Iowa–and maybe America. I wear them as mumoos and robes around the house, feeling over the years how they grow thin in certain places. Textiles…and perfume. We collect our skin–or, at least, I certainly do. The skin I had in India, the skin I had in Paris, the skin I had in Berlin or Romania or England. It’s an awesome thing.

    Three cheers to your certain return to Paris in the years to come. Michelangelo’s Dying Slave is also in the Louvre, some say his finest work. It can generate tears.

    • What a touching story! I myself have a wardrobe of beautiful vintage dresses that I almost never wear. I agree with the idea that we collect our skin, and I love getting something someone else wore and loved and imagine what her life was like- her skin. When I wear my dresses, I wear them in honor of their previous owners

      • YES! YES! I love resale. Almost all of my clothes are, aside from the pieces bought on trips. I wouldn’t call them vintage, lol, but what you say about thinking of the other person’s skin hits home with me. We have this resale shop, and–I kid you not–there seems to be a woman in town whose tastes are identical to mine in terms of color and fit. The owners of the store call out when I come in: She’s been here! Let me show you! She slips off this piece of her life, and I pull it on. I feel very intimate with her, despite having no idea who she is. It is fiercely uncanny and magical at the same time.

        • Same thing! The sister-in-law of the owners of one of my favorite consignment shops is my size and taste. The labels are coded by consignor — a significant percentage of the time, the stuff I choose has HER code on it. Fortunately for me her SIL likes to recycle her clothes frequently. 🙂

          • It IS fabulous! New play clothes available all the time. Yummy!

    • What a touching post Catherine!

      It is pretty amazing that there seems to be a common “thread” (pardon the pun!) of textile hoarding. I have a good friend who is Mennonite and an extremely talented quilter. She made me a king-size quilt with fabric of my choosing, and it is so stunningly beautiful that – guess what? I cannot bring myself to put it on my bed and enjoy it in all its splendour.

      I’m sure those Brigitte Singh Mughal patterns are gorgeous. I’ve had a thing for saris ever since I was a kid. The more colorful they are, the harder I stare at them. I can’t help myself!

      • What a beautiful thing, Nava, a quilt made by a friend. I have often considered making a quilt of the clothes that are now too worn, simply because there are too many I cannot give up, even if they should be sent out into the world (or, rather, the trashcan, since I wear things until they rip in the butt, lol!)

        Saris…(hand over heart). I travelled India for a year just to meet sari-weavers back in the mid-90s (it was meant to be a dissertation project that never got off the ground once I returned to the states). I came to learn how many of the old traditions were transferred to duputtas, because there wasn’t the market for the saris themselves–and even the duputta market was very small. Those duputtas may be my most cherished objects. After this winter, I’m laying one aside to “rest” after a decade of being glued to my neck. I’ll spend much of the next fall, I’m sure, deciding which “new” one to break in. I think it will be an electric blue and lime one, based on an old South India pattern.

      • PS: My one true-hoarding instinct: I do not put the Brigitte Singh quilts on the bed. I use them every night, but I fold them up every morning and “hide” them, because five cats and a dog take a toll. And the quilt from my great aunt never gets open. Quilts are special. Extra-special. Hopefully, one day when you next post, you can show us a picture of this beautiful gift.

    • What an amazing insight – “we collect our skin.” I looked through the comments again and right you are – many of us are also fabric lovers – me included. I never would have thought of perfume as being tactile but we apply it to our skin, and multiple times through the day for most of us. Thanks for the wonderful insight.

      • One of my joys in falling for perfume is shopping with other women. At what other point in our lives are we encouraged to sink our noses into the flesh of friends and strangers? And all the extra moments of sinking into the flesh of our beloveds? I sense that my husband’s excitement over his ever-growing collection of fragrance is the chance to stand there, several times a day, proclaiming: I just sprayed! I run over and snuffle him, to his utter delight!

  21. Great post, Nava! And thanks for writing for us. I confess I am not a very good hoarder. I rip everything open immediately, and no set of china is too good for my everyday use… :d

    • Thanks again to you and Patty, March. Anytime you want hoarding tips, let me know. :d

  22. What a great post, yes, I am a hoarder too, I don’t know if it’s familial though, I, unfortunately grew up without my grandparents (they were in South America). But I am starting my own family tradition of hoarding fine fragrances. I am afraid if something happens to me what will happen to my stash?!! I must make a will for them immediately. I tell you perfumistas are a strange bunch!! Thanks for making me laugh and also relate, it’s good to know we are not alone.

    • Anytime. I’m all for keeping life interesting!

  23. A post to inspire confessionals, and perhaps a lifestyle review.

    As for the inspired posts on the combination of tactile and scent…my older child, when very young, had a special blanket, embroidered by my grandmother, which took nearly all of my pregnancy to complete. That child went very boldly to pre-school at the age of two, as long as “Bear blankie” was with him. It came out only at naptime, but the teacher described the very same behavior I would see at bedtime, or when he became overstimulated, or in need of comfort–blankie to face, a huge SNIFFF, and relaxing. We washed it regularly, and the first 24 hours post-wash were never happy. He got used to it, but would say “It’s just not Bear Blankie until it has it’s smell back.”

    I can’t pull that blanket out to touch or smell today…it kind of imploded from use…which on the one hand is incredibly sad, but on the other, my grandmother’s effort paid off in a self-confident teenager, who still uses his nose for cooking, enjoying the garden, etc. Weirdly, he likes the smell of gasoline–guess I know what perfumes he would like… 😉 In the end, I’m glad we lived life, and that Bear Blankie got used. I have embroidered linens from the hands of great-grandparents, and love them as objects with meaning, but none have so profoundly helped shape a life as that no-longer-with-us blanket.:-\”:-\”:”>

    • Thank you for that lovely story. because of it I just pulled out a vintage silk scarf that my mother wore with every coat. It’s nearly in tatters but it still smells like her, 20 years after her passing. It brings such nice memories which, of course, it couldn’t do were it still folded up in a box. Then it’s just another piece of merchandise. This (and the Bear blankie) is a part of someone and as such, is much more treasured! I’m actually going to have it mended and wear it myself!

      • Musette, bravo. I think you will enjoy wearing your mother’s scarf…and, as you add some of your own style (and scent?) to that scarf, you will not only evoke your mother’s memory (and perhaps actually conjure her somewhat?), you will therefore, in a way, be mothering your mother. The best possible way to preserve and make memories, and make tangible the magical way generations can live both forward and backward in a single moment.

  24. Dear Friend, I so enjoyed reading your piece and all the comments following it. I hope to read much more from you in the future 🙂

  25. Thank you so much for your post. It serves to remind me of my own penchant for keeping things pristine and my inability to capture the French “joi de vivre.” Sadly, I can only let myself enjoy my better, precious belongings if they become somehow imperfect.

    My hoarded textiles take the form of exquisitely crafted Hermes scarves; 23 of them. Not one worn. Last year, one arrived to me from the Hermes boutique somewhat rumpled. I did not exchange it because the colorway is rare and it was just too much trouble. Interestingly, it is the only one I have considered wearing. I reason that the now imperfect folds can’t be furthur imperfected by a wear. I may just put it on one of these days.

    There is, of course, also the hoarded fragrance and cosmetics. I surprised myself last week when I foolishly attempted to depot an arsenal of Chanel eyeshadow singles (which I never use) into one handy pallete. My gorgeous shadows broke, cracked and crumbled. Behold, I find myself wearing them this week! Can’t ruin something that has already broke!

    My little daughters are 2 and 4 and I think dreamily of gifting them with my perfect, untouched things one day. I know a better legacy would be to create a clear memory of a mom who smelled constantly of her favorite scents, wore her beautiful things with abandon, and, for heaven’s sakes, emptied the perfect lipsticks from their tubes onto her lips rather than let them spoil and fester.

    • Cummings (and Nava), I truly understand the desire to preserve intact. I still think of the gasp I uttered when I was visiting a colleague many years ago who lived in what was once a department store in Detroit. She lived on the main floor, slept on the mezzanine, parked her motorcycles on the spacious stair landings. Her basement? The former stockroom…still full of merchandise! OH, the shoes! The stuff!!!

      And yet, as enthralling (and potentially time-travel transporting) as that was, I think you are right to think of the message you wish to send to your daughters. The fear of being messy can correlate to a fear of making mistakes, which can be paralyzing — and certainly there is magic in embracing life, versus preserving it at a distance. There is a place, certainly, for the reverence and reverie that preservation entails…but the giddiness, the laughter, and even the sorrow, that comes from exploring and making messes (and mistakes), and the strength we get from learning that just because things get broken doesn’t mean we break, is certainly worth some loss, no?

      Perhaps, as with so much, we must each find the balance that works for us. I’m pretty sure that in terms of objects, mine will be a lifelong project, trying to figure out how to placate the tension I have between the desire to hoard/save/collect/preserve and to use/share/explore new uses/and straight out get rid of something.

      @};-

  26. I am a lucky, yes I live in Paris since my childhood.

    It is strange and quite soft to discover that very common and vulgar place can be transformed in magical and mythic area.

    Thank you very much to see my city with your eyes and your imagination. I only hope you will be able to come back.

    I am sorry for the thusday story, You are welcome here …

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