Memory Lane Monday: Mother’s Day and Carven’s Ma Griffe

ma griffeFirst off, happy Mother’s Day to all of you who are celebrating it today (I know some of you in other countries celebrate it at other times). As for me, I went to visit my wonderful mother-in-law for the day and wore Serge Lutens’ Bas de Soie to cut the heat and humidity during the long drive. But later in the evening I switched over to Frederic Malle’s Carnal Flower for a nice dinner out (because moms like to feel beautiful and a bit sexy sometimes, too). Anyway, please bear with me as I head down a somewhat bittersweet Memory Lane today.

Can you go home again? Can you wear the same scent(s) that your mother or grandmother wore, or is the fragrance just too emotionally charged and emotion-laden?

I pondered this myself when, craving some new greens, I recently ordered a small decant of vintage Carven Ma Griffe EDT. My mother wore it, along with YSL’s Rive Gauche, when I was growing up in the ‘70s and I’ve not smelled the Carven since.

To make a long story short, my mother was an alcoholic and my elderly but loving grandparents ending up raising me from toddlerhood. It wasn’t until my grandfather died that I really had any real contact with my mother, who moved in with me and my grandmother after his death. And unfortunately, much of what was to follow was far from pleasant, for shortly after my grandmother died from breast cancer, my mother’s alcohol problem reared up again, this time combined with an addiction to Valium.
As you might imagine, this did not end well. She made me move out of the house right after the funeral, and then she herself died nine months later from an overdose, just a few weeks before I was heading off to college. It was such a tragedy and I was devastated, not only because of losing my mother, but also with all my immediate family gone, I was now pretty much on my own. But somehow I got through it, armed with a deep faith and the belief that something good can always come out of tragedy.

So as I pulled out the Ma Griffe decant, I figured 30-plus years ought to be enough to banish any lingering scent memories, so I gamely sprayed. I’m not sure what vintage my spray was, but somewhere along the way it has been reformulated and doesn’t have quite the heft that I remember, but shadows of its grassy green tinged with something sharp still linger. Its astringency remains (the clary sage or asafetida, perhaps?) but toned down somewhat, as well as the dark, earthy beauty of its tension between bitter and sweet. Which, looking back, seems a bit apropos considering my mother’s personality, as God rest her soul, she was not a mom of the warm and cuddly sort, alas. As I surveyed Ma Griffe again after all these years, it strikes me as a great old-school chypre, but in the end skews a bit too dry and austere on my skin, and not something that I would wear often. But on the right person it could be stunning. Chanel’s Cristalle, Gucci Envy and Estee Lauder’s Private Collection, among others, are more my speed when it comes to green.

So please share with us: What was your scent(s) for today? Have you ever worn what your mother or grandmother wore? And what are your favorite scent memories of them?

36 Comments

  1. Ann, thank you for sharing something so deeply personal with us, I feel honored to be included. I hope the weekend ends with sweet and restful dreams, safe in the knowledge that you persevered and built this wonderful community that I’ve learned so much from! My Mom wears Shalimar, and I can never smell it an think of anyone else. I’m too much of a scent-hussy to be faithful, so today was Jour d’Hermes. Perfect for an day outside window shopping and lunch with the fam. PS: I also wear all of the greens you mention above. Yup, I’m a Huss! XOXO!

    • Thank you, Rina. I feel very blessed to have had an otherwise loving family and friends (and all you great Posse folks) through my life; it really makes a difference. Love your Hermes — you smelled divine for your day out with your family. Glad to see another fan of greenies!

  2. Today was the day that I started out with finishing off a small decant of vintage Mitsouko and when supper rolled around, I finished off another small decant (Sarrasins) and I’m so proud of myself. My mother wore Chanel Pour Monsieure on special occasions when I was growing up but that’s been badly reformulated and now she’s taken to those floral patchouli things that I dislike. I associate my one grandmother with CK Euphoria and the whole candy floss things kind of annoy me because they are also still all the rage.

    • Yay — good for you for finishing your decants! I love Sarrasins, too, but often forget about it, so thanks for the reminder. And how cool that your mom wore a men’s scent back then; it must have been grand on her — wish I could smell the original again.

      • On the other side, it didn’t help that Surrender to Chance had that 15% off your order deal and I couldn’t refuse getting two huge decants of De Profundis and Sarrasins. It’s gotta balance out somehow because the Serge Lutens website is offering the Paris line to US residents and I’m not paying $300 for a bell jar.

  3. Dear Ann, your brave post resonates with me as my own mother was much like yours and met a similar end. But we had good as well as bad times, and whilst at first I found smelling some of her favourite perfumes painful, I later grew to appreciate them and even sometimes wore them. Chanel No 5 would have been at the top of the list. Nowadays I don’t want to smell like her, but a whiff of Chanel No 5 will bring sweet and sour memories flooding back, Perhaps that’s why I became such a green freak – so opposite to No 5 and all my own with no associations!

    • Jillie, I’m so sorry to hear that you had a similar experience, but glad that you got through it and made a good life for yourself. It is nice that, with time, we’re able to appreciate those scents, even if we don’t wear them. And I’ll happily join you in the green freak club 🙂 !!

  4. Dear Ann, thanks so much for sharing your story which is so faith strengthening. I’ve lived with both alcoholism and drug addiction and know the heartbreak and floods of emotion; so glad your story has a happy ending in your own family. My mother is 87 and we are very close, especially going through this difficult time of transition where my parents are losing their independence and I’m taking on their responsibilities. She’s been a serial perfume monogamist over the years but her favorite is L’air du Temps which I’ll never be able to wear. I’ve shared my perfume hobby with her the last few years and she’s discovered new things to enjoy which has been a nice bond for us.

    • Thank you, dear, but I am sorry that you have had to deal with those issues as well. And I agree, it is hard when parents enter that stage where you have to intervene, but I know you are a comfort to her. What a joy that you have been able to bond with your mom over perfume and even help broaden her scent horizons; you’ve made her life so much richer.

  5. Ann, you shared some of your mother’s story privately with me before, and I remember thinking what a brave young woman you had to have been to get through the pain and fear of stepping out into the world completely on your own at the time you were just graduating high school. I’m glad you’re at a point in life when you are able to share that here (with friends who cherish your presence) and that you’ve found a way to forgive your mother (I know your faith has enabled you to do that, but still not an easy thing to accomplish).

    Here’s to you – and to what sounds like a wonderful Mother’s Day spent with your mother-in-law, smelling terrific the whole day through. (I haven’t tried Bas de Soie, but a silk stockings scent does sound cool, and of course Carnal Flower is glorious). Even though I’m not a mom, I had something to celebrate yesterday: my niece graduated with her master’s degree in Occupational Therapy. I wore the original Missoni perfume to the graduation.

    • Thank you so much, sweet Suzanne; I really appreciate your kind words. One of the blessings of going through hard times is that you hope, somehow, that your experience can help someone else to make it through their trials.
      And such great news about your niece! Congratulations to her, and to her parents and to you as well! She is so very fortunate to have a wonderful aunt like you.

  6. Ann, your bravery in recounting your life with your mom (not to mention actually LIVING through it) is humbling. I’m so glad you were able to get through it, get to the ‘other side’…and now can look at it with both dispassion and a level of sympathy and love. Your own child is definitely benefitting!

    My mother wore Coty L’Aimant & L’Origan, then moved to Norell & Shalimar edt (in the blue/white mosaic cylinder). L’Aimant often ends up smelling like bloody roast beef on me, so I have to be very, very careful wearing that. L’Origan is my favorite scent memory.

    I had to laugh at your greens list. Every single one of those makes me anxious or weepy. Especially Cristalle! Damn shame, too, as all of them are GORGEOUS! But stressful. 😀 xoxoxoxoA

    • Dearest A, I do so appreciate your kind words, especially considering what you’ve been through, and shared with us with remarkable grace and humor. So I think it’s safe to say that we’re all in good company here; considering that most of us have seen some hard knocks but here we are, surviving, thriving and smelling great! But sorry my greenies are stressors for you; I promise never to wear them around you 🙂

  7. Ann, yes, I do appreciate your story. As you say, with time, we do appreciate our scars. It is amazing you have become the kind and loving person you are. Or maybe, it is because of what you went through, you became such.

    I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by good women–my mother, grandmothers and all my aunts. So many perfumes, each with a specific memory who wore what when. Alot of these perfumes I can’t wear but still spray when I want to remember those who are gone. They are also part of the reason I love vintage perfumes so much. With one spray I feel like I have a piece of my childhood back, when all the family was close together and not scattered all over the country, and I feel the arms of my grandmothers, gone decades now, or my aunts, such sweetness.

    • Thank you, darling Sherri, and right back at you. You were so blessed to have so many good women around you and you carry on their tradition beautifully. And how lovely that just a spray gives you good memories and a dip back into childhood — priceless! BTW, there is a saying that I love (author not definitively known): “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” I have always believed that showing love and compassion to each other is the reason God put us here on earth. And that’s why I adore being here on the Posse, because you all are so kind, thoughtful and understanding (and smell great to boot!).

  8. Ann, thank you for sharing deep and emotional story. I’ve also lived with alcoholic so I do know what it was like.
    My mum and grandmother used to wear perfumes but I don’t wear them. Feels like they are something belong to them and not me. 🙂

    • I’m sorry to hear you’ve had to deal with that, thinkingmagpie. You know the heartache of watching them spiral downward and the frustration of not being able to stop it. I remember as a 16- and 17-year-old driving my mother to various rehab and treatment centers and hoping and praying that this facility would be the one that would get her turned around. I think all we can really do is love and support them, while realizing that we can’t change them. I’m glad you can appreciate your family’s perfumes even if you don’t wear them.

  9. Ann, this was a deeply powerful and personal post. I just realized I’ve layered my scars with funny stories and jokes, as it was so much easier than letting them see the light of day. I applaud your courage. Both my mother and grandmother were perfume lovers. I remember the beautiful bottles on their dressing tables, NEVER to be touched or smelled unless they were wearing it. Wow, I can hear the echoes. When I became an employed adult, I made sure I had perfume, to enjoy for myself and to share. I’m still sharing. I’d love to show you my 20’s boxes and bottles. I recently scored a biggie, a full bottle of 1925 Le Numero Cinq EDC by Molyneux. I finally got it open, and now will be sharing.

    • Thanks, dear Jan! We all have different ways of dealing with our baggage, and I think having a sense of humor about it is vital and healthy. Your experience with the “untouchables” on the dressing tables makes me smile, because you are one of the most generous people I know. Would love to see your collection — one of these days we need to somehow have a Posse show-and-tell. And lucky you to have gotten that monumental bottle; do tell us more about it (the scent and the bottle).

  10. I wore a dab of Bois de Paradis today. My mother didn’t wear scent very often, and so I don’t really have a lot of early associations with perfume. That’s probably a good thing for me, as I rarely want to go home again. 🙂 I like moving forward into the now much better.

    Ann, dear, we adore you. Isn’t that funny and weird and fabulous? Most of us have never met, and likely never will, yet I am often struck by how easily and generously we listen and speak to each other here, and take each other at face value. Happy Mother’s Day to you, and all of the rest of the Posse mums!

    • How sweet of you, Lisa, and the feeling is so mutual! You’re right; it is oddly wonderful that we have such a great connection here on the Posse — such a blessing for all of us. Maybe because we have so much baggage tied up in our family, friends, co-workers, etc., that it is refreshing to just relax and be ourselves here and be accepted unconditionally. Glad you mentioned the Bois de Paradis; I think that’s one of the DelRaes that I’ve somehow missed, so over to STC I go go to remedy that ASAP. 🙂

  11. Thank you for sharing Ann. It’s easy to think of Mother’s Day as a warm and fuzzy holiday, but a few of my friends posted on Facebook to remind us that is not the case for those who have lost a mother, had troubled relationships with their mother, or are unable to become a mother. My mother never wore perfume much, but I do recall her having a tall black rectangular Chanel bottle. She was probably saving it for special occasions, which there weren’t too many of! My grandmother always wore Chantilly. We would get her a gift set for Christmas every year of dusting powder and a solid perfume. There’s no way I could wear that as it is a powder bomb and not my type of thing at all.

    • Thank you, Odonata, and I agree — it can be a really tough day for many folks. I’m tickled that you mentioned Chantilly — haven’t thought of that scent in years but I can picture that gift set from my childhood visits to the big drugstore. I’m with you, though –, way too much of a powder bomb for me, too. But glad it made her happy.

  12. Bittersweet indeed! Alcoholics can wreak such havoc. I have had a couple in my life as well, and I guess the best I can do is try to love them as much as I can without overextending myself where I get hurt. It’s very difficult. Thank you for sharing. I also love green scents. I wear no. 19 lots, and still, after falling in love when it first came out, I wear Salvatore Ferragamo Pour Femme, which I have heard of nobody else on any other blog giving any kind of love to, but I think it’s just lovely. Maybe it’s just a perfect fit for my chemistry, and I have many good memories associated with it.

    • Amen, Elena! You are so right about caring about them but trying not to get damaged in the process, and sometimes that’s a fine line. Hang in there and keep on loving them.
      Yay on the No. 19, another great green! And your Salvatore Ferragamo shout-out is ringing a vague bell for me and I just had to go Google it immediately to see it. Yes! I thought it was excellent also, and loved that sleek, angular bottle as well.

  13. Thanks for sharing. There are a lot of holidays that can be tough on people and might not conjure up the best memories. Oftentimes those are the stories that are the most interesting because you find out what people are made of and see how adversity strengthened them. It also is comforting to a lot of people to know that they aren’t the only ones who didn’t have that picture perfect parent. I saw both the MIL and my mom on Sunday. The MIL stuck her foot in her mouth as usual and told her daughter she looked like she gained weight. Needless to say the visit went downhill from there. I was glad to get out of there. The visit with my mom was thankfully less dramatic. My mom never wore perfume really but did have a few bottles on her dresser. I remember Tabu and Cotillion.

    • Poodle, you are so right. If you can get through the really tough times, it does tend to strengthen you and give you a deeper sense of thankfulness for the good things in your life. I’m sorry to hear about your MIL; I don’t understand why people have to say hurtful things like that. Glad that seeing your mom was far less painful. Cotillion — was that an Avon scent or am I confused? Must go investigate. Thanks!

  14. I feel very lucky to have had a continuing good relationship with my mother, and it is always humbling to me to realize that not everyone is so lucky. How glad I am that you have an attitude of appreciation for your strength through adversity – I see your graciousness and I’m so proud of you.

    I wore Chanel No. 5, vintage parfum, on Mother’s Day, and thought of all my mother’s hugs. I didn’t think that I’d ever wear it because it was so associated with her in my mind until a few years ago, and I still don’t wear it often, but it’s lovely to have it on and feel embraced by it. The other scents she’s worn over the years include Jovan Musk for Women, Anais Anais, Coty L’Effleur, and Elizabeth Arden 5th Avenue, all very “clean” florals.

    I love my greenies as well, though Ma Griffe is too sharp for me. Was wondering – what scent would your children most associate with you? There are only a few my kids say “smell like Mom”: Mary Greenwell Plum and PdN Le Temps d’une Fete, as well as No. 19.

    • Thank you, Mals, you are so sweet. And so blessed to have had a great mom. I love that when you wear No. 5 it’s like getting one of her hugs — that is perfume at its very best! I’m just curious: Has she ever tried the Eau Premiere? Would love to know what she thought of it. And glad you mentioned Anais Anais; what a nice floral and the bottle was just so, so pretty, wasn’t it? I’m a little ashamed to say that I’ve not really worn the same scents often enough for my son to have a “mom” scent, although I often wear Kai on our beach vacations, so that might sort of count. 🙂

      • Mom has tried Eau Premiere; oddly, it smells very *fruity* on her. We don’t know why. I think Eau Premiere is terrific.

        • That is funny about EP smelling fruity, but there’s different body chemistries for you. Does she like it enough to wear it occasionally? I’m a fan of EP as well and find myself wishing they’d make it in beautifully rich body cream. Yum!

  15. Thank you for your story, Ann! I can only imagine how heartbreaking it is to have an alcoholic for a mother, and then having her gone so soon, and grandmother you loved. My mother is not in the habit of wearing perfume, has never been. I don’s think she has ever bought herself a bottle, only those received from us, her children. I remember the first perfume I bought for her was Fendi, and she was moved to tears that I’d spent the little money I had on a perfume because I thought she’d love it, and she did. My grandma’s favourite note was lily-of the valley, she would have loved Diorissimo. As for greens, the version of MaGriffe I have is nice, soapy and relaxed. I don’t find it too sharp or dry (Y is much drier).

    • Katrin, your kind words are so very much appreciated; thank you. What a sweet story about your mom and the Fendi — that bottle you bought yourself meant the world to her, and I would love smelling Diorissimo on a grandmother. Lucky you that your Ma Griffe isn’t too sharp. Do you know when it was made?

      • Hi Ann! I really cannot tell you how old it is. It’s a mini with a white plastic cap in the shape of a circle. I tested in today again, and the beginning is a bit off (well, it’s a vintage), but now, some 5-6 hours later it’s still on, soapy and green and definitely a chypre, but wouldn’t call it sharp. I tried it side by side with the vintage No 19 in EdT and No 19 has already disappeared, while Ma Griffe lingers on, but it does not seem to be a strong concentration (EdT perhaps, or PdT?). If you are interested in comparing the versions, I’ gladly send you the mini!

        • Thanks so much, Katrin, that is so sweet of you, but I’m good. Just a little curious about when the reformulation(s) came about. Enjoy your lovely greens!

Comments are closed.