This post is, eventually, about perfume. Also it’s the usual March meander. Consider yourselves warned.
When you’re a kid, whatever your parents do probably seems normal. I was raised in the Lutheran church, mostly because my mother didn’t drive and that was the closest church to our house, within walking distance. Somewhere in my early childhood, my mother decided that the Christmas Eve church services needed some fellowship. So for days and weeks prior to that night, she planned and bought the necessary supplies, with her own money. My sister and my dad and mom and I all headed over there at around 4 pm to set the food tables and everything else up. We stayed the entire evening, refreshing the cookie and sandwich trays and refilling the punch bowls with ginger ale and frozen fruit-punch rings (remember those?) The good Lutherans of that church got into the spirit quickly and brought all sorts of goodies for the table – bread and cheese and dips and crackers and cookies. My favorite cookies were the dyed-green, hand-shaped Christmas wreaths made with melted marshmallows and corn flakes, decorated with red-hots representing the holly berries.
Every year my mother wore the same outfit – her one pair of nice gold earrings and a dashiki she’d bought in Senegal – and a modest spritz of My Sin, the only fragrance she owned. I’d go to the midnight service, which was candle-lit and always seemed magical to me. Then we’d all stay and clean up and go home in the bitter cold at, oh, 3 am or thereabouts. My parents had to get up on Christmas day and put up with our present-opening, as much as I’m sure they’d have liked to sleep in.
I look back on this as an adult and realize what an incredible gift it was – to the church, to all of us, and by my father. Because my dad’s a devout atheist who thinks the whole Christian tradition is a bunch of hooey. But he loved my mother so much that he spent all that time helping her, because it was important to her, no matter how stupid or loathsome he found it.
I don’t know how I feel about God right now, particularly after this year. But I know that if there’s a heaven, my mom and dad and every dog I’ve loved will be there.
If I were doing the Lutheran Christmas shindig this year, I’d wear Guerlain Jicky. Jicky was one of my gateway drugs to perfumery. Jicky is angular and strange, even more so than Mitsouko; it would fit easily into the lineup at Comme des Garcons. My old-ish bottle of the parfum is lavender and pure, animalic skank. The EDT is lemon and lavender and a generous dollop of WTF. Luca Turin suggests that the PDT is the closest to the original. Earlier this year one of you (Musette?) sent me a small bottle of the PDT, which I wanted desperately, with a note that said, paraphrasing, I hear you like this evil thing, so, mazeltov! The PDT is hot candle wax and frigid winter, lemony furniture polish in the sanctuary, damp wool, and icicles glowing in the light.
For any of you who’ve read this far: here’s March’s Christmas Giveaway. To one commenter I will send three (bootlegged!) CDs of our family’s favorite Christmas music from years past, including a 1940s Christmas, traditional Christmas, and the groovy guitar and singing of the Monks of Weston Priory, a seasonal LP which my mother and I loved and which has garnered more than one raised eyebrow from friends (no accounting for taste, right?) Also included will be a small decant of Jicky PDT and two bricks of my favorite Santa Fe piñon incense. If Christmas isn’t your tradition, you can always give those CDs away. And feel free to name your traditions/favorite music in comments!
Finally, here’s a YouTube link to one of my favorite traditional Christmas carols, The Holly and the Ivy, adapted slightly and sung, in haunting and melodic fashion, by an obscure pop band (Los Campesinos) which Diva played for me this weekend in the car on her iPod. The visuals are boring but I got all verklempt listening to it.
Grace and peace to all of you, and blessings for the new year.
Image: Holly and ivy in Wales, Eric Jones, wikimedia commons.