Hermes Caleche

My tiny flacon.

By March

My dad died on the 13th. He had a fantastic run – 93 years, most of them healthy, still living in the home my sister and I grew up in. We’re all local so when it came time to call hospice, it was easier (as far as these things go) than coping with the situation from out of state. My dad’s caregiver called us early that Friday morning and suggested we get over there quickly. My sister and I were with him all morning, talking to him and holding his hand, until he drifted away. We buried him last Wednesday. I did the flowers, and we read some poems which I’ll paste in here. Mostly I’m grateful (all those extra decades of time!), although I have those pangs of grief when I see something about astronomy or another topic of interest and realize I can’t call him any more to discuss it.

My sister and I were over there rooting around, doing a little necessary cleanup, and I found tucked into a decorative box a small flacon of Hermes Caleche (labeled parfum). I have no idea how it got there, or why; I guarantee you my dad never set foot in Hermes. That flacon must have been there for decades, baking in the heat of the upstairs bedroom. I opened it and threw some on (why not?) figuring it would be terrible, but I held out hope for the base notes.

It’s fantastic. Truly. I’m not even sure I’ve smelled Caleche while paying attention; Kelly Caleche is more “me.” Also looking at their website I don’t see any Caleche parfum available, which confuses me, although maybe they have it in the store? Caleche came out right around the time my parents bought their house, and that wee flacon has probably been there for most of that time (maybe my mom got it from someone in a housewarming gift? She wouldn’t have wandered into Hermes either.)

Here’s the blurb from Fragrantica: “composed by Guy Robert in 1961, this very feminine combination of flower, woods and chypre, whose name evokes the House’s emblematic carriage team, shines through the beauty of its primary ingredients, from the gaiety of its citrus hints to the modernity of its aldehyde notes, from its floral heart embroidered with ylang-ylang, rose and jasmine, to its woody chypre afternote, emphasized by the nobility of iris.”

Smelling the fragrance in the flacon, it’s got a demure, powdery top I’m not crazy about. On the skin, it’s a completely different story. Caleche might have read as “modern” in the early sixties, and it doesn’t read as vintage now, not my well-baked bottle. It’s… there’s something timeless about it. I wish I still had my bottle of vintage Guerlain Chamade to compare, because there’s some venn-diagram overlay with the base, after Chamade’s hyacinth-green topnotes wander off. Anyway, I’m viewing it as one final gift from them to me.

Here’s some of the poetry we read at my dad’s funeral – the first chosen by my daughter, and the second chosen by my dad for the occasion.


Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

— Mary Oliver


Dirge Without Music

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

Lovers and thinkers, into the earth with you.
Be one with the dull, the indiscriminate dust.
A fragment of what you felt, of what you knew,
A formula, a phrase remains, but the best is lost.

The answers quick and keen, the honest look, the laughter, the love,
They are gone. They are gone to feed the roses. Elegant and curled
Is the blossom. Fragrant is the blossom. I know. But I do not approve.
More precious was the light in your eyes than all the roses in the world.

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.

— Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Collected Poems

  • Neva says:

    I was away for a week and only now I’ve found out about your loss…I’m so sorry and I wish you strength for the next period of time. It took me several years to cope with my dad’s loss. Tears of sorrow were suddenly flowing, totally uninvited and I was often overwhelmed with grief doing something like swimming on a warm summer day, doing Christmas shopping and so on…but I think you have the most wonderful comforting thought: you were together when it happened and from my experience up to now it’s the best you can hope for. He was so lucky to have such children and obviously he was a healthy old person with a fulfilled life. Let this be the consolation when you’ll feel sad. Big hug!

  • maggiecat says:

    My very favorite Millay poem – it brought tears to my eyes. I’m sorry for your loss and hope your warm memories are a comfort for you.

  • Vanie says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. The poems were beautiful.

  • Nemo says:

    I am sorry for your loss, March! Thank you for sharing in such a beautiful post. The poems were very moving, and I am glad you have a lovely scent memory to remind you of your father, too.

  • Lisa D says:

    March, reading your post, the poetry and these comments engendered a lot of thoughts and feelings. Primarily, though, it made me think of something I’ve always believed. Simultaneously, we are all so different, and yet, so much, we are the same. I hope that in the midst of all the feelings you’re experiencing, you’re also sensing the true and genuine tenderness and support we are all sending out to you.

    Your dad must have been a great guy.

    And, you smell marvelous.

  • tammy says:

    I am so sorry to hear about your Daddy, March. You’ve had a rough go of it this year…. I pray for comfort and peace in your grief.

  • Eloquaint says:

    I’m terribly sorry you lost your dad, March. My thoughts are with you.

  • Petunia says:

    So sorry for you loss March. It’s never easy to lose a beloved parent. The poems that you and your daughter selected were so beautiful and fitting. I lost my father too soon and I wasn’t ready. The small bottle of perfume seems like a message from your parents for you. They are watching over you now.

  • poodle says:

    So sorry for your loss. No matter how many years you have with them it never seems enough.

  • Musette says:

    What beautiful poems, March – that Millay poem always guts me – in a good way. I’m so glad you and your sister had so much time with your dad. I loved your stories about him – he always sounded so witty and erudite.

    That Caleche sounds grand! What a lovely gift for them to leave for you.


    • March says:

      Yeah, we had to get Ava to read that one, neither my sister nor I could make it through without choking up. It sounds so like my dad. I’ve really enjoyed all our time talking about him, and thanks for all your advice and support.

  • FragrantWitch says:

    I haven’t commented in ages but I wanted to say that I am sorry for your loss, March. I also wanted to share the passage I read out at my grandfather’s November funeral many years ago now, it may resonate with you as well.

    He had never before been quite so acutely aware of the particular quality and function of November, its ripeness and its hushed sadness. The year proceeds not in a straight line through the seasons, but in a circle that brings the world and man back to the dimness and mystery in which both began, and out of which a new seed-time and a new generation are about to begin. Old men, thought, Cadfael, believe in that new beginning, but experience only the ending. It may be that God is reminding me that I am approaching my November. Well, why regret it? November has beauty, has seen the harvest into the barns, even laid by next year’s seed. No need to fret about not being allowed to stay and sow it, someone else will do that. So go contentedly into the earth with the moist, gentle, skeletal leaves, worn to cobweb fragility, like the skins of very old men, that bruise and stain at the mere brushing of the breeze, and flower into brown blotches as the leaves into rotting gold. The colours of the late autumn are the colours of the sunset: the farewell of the year and the farewell of the day. And of the life of man? Well, it it ends in a flourish of gold, that is no bad ending.

  • Heidi says:

    Much love to you and your family, March. It sounds like your dad had a wonderful life, and a wonderful death. He did it right. And the poems you chose are just gorgeous — that Mary Oliver one is my favorite poem of hers, and I love Millay. Go read Jane Kenyon’s “Let Evening Come,” when you get the chance — it’s such a gentle goodbye.

  • Kathryn says:

    I’m so sorry, March. I’ll be thinking of you today and also of the passing of my own senior generation with a spritz of my aunt’s Chanel No. 5. Not me at all, but definitely my aunt’s taste. At the end of her long life, I recovered several bottles of her much loved perfume and some well read volumes of poetry, including several by Edna St. Vincent Millay. “A fragment of what [she] felt, of what [she]knew…”

  • cinnamon says:

    March, I’m so sorry for your loss. A beautiful post and I hope the good memories help with your grieving.

  • Caroline says:

    Sorry for your loss–kind & lovable dads are the best. Thanks for posting the St Vincent Millay–we don’t seem to read poetry often enough. Caleche parfum comes in a lock spray refill on the Nordstrom site. The empty lock atomizer is a separate purchase, naturally!

  • bevfred says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. But you gained Caleche and what a way to remember two loved ones.I had Chamade back when it was first introduced. Chamade does not smell at all like Caleche. Chamade was much more fresh and green. But the color I associated was hyacinth blue/purple. Caleche is so special, especially now when good chypres are few and far between. I didn’t know that Caleche came as a parfum either.

    • March says:

      I’m really tickled that I have this parfum and will think of them when I smell it; I’m wearing some right now, as a matter of fact.

  • rosarita313 says:

    I’m sorry for the pangs of grief, March, and the heartbreaking task of dealing with the stuff that’s left behind. What a wonderful gift to find. I don’t think I’ve ever smelled Caleche.
    On the other hand, it’s awesome that your dad was able to go to sleep in his own home surrounded by love. My dad turns 91 on Sunday; I am my parent’s caretaker and our goal has been for them to be able to stay in their home as long as possible. I’m grateful for every day I have with them. You’ve given me hope, March, and the poems are beautiful.

    • March says:

      Yes, it is possible for them to stay at home, if all the necessary pieces are in place. My dad was more or less totally independent (he’d given up driving) until last year. We were blessed.

  • Queen Cupcake says:

    Sorry for your loss, March. I love the poems, especially anything by Mary Oliver. No matter how long a life our loved ones are given, we always want more.

    Sometime in the early 1980s, my sister went to Paris, and asked if she could bring back something for me. I asked for Calandre but she misunderstood and brought back a small bottle of the Caleche parfum. I was a bit disappointed and never used it until decades later, when I rediscovered it, still sitting in its adorable Hermes box. I still do not wear it much, but I do bring it out to sniff now and then–lovely!

    • March says:

      I adore Mary Oliver; she’s also one of my daughter’s favorite poets. So much beauty in her words. And I’m glad you have the vintage Caleche as well!

  • Dina C. says:

    Dear March,
    I’m sorry for the loss of your dad, and I’m moved by the beauty of the poetry your family chose. What a lovely bit of serendipity to find that Caleche flacon. It’s one that I’ve been curious about, especially if it shares any resemblance to Chamade. Sending you hugs and lifting your family in my meditations.

    • March says:

      I checked The Guide and Luca Turin suggests that the original Caleche is quite different from the current version. I’m glad I have the original, and it definitely made me think of Chamade!

  • Donna S says:

    Sorry for your loss. I’m sure that bottle somehow was heaven sent.

  • Portia says:

    What a way to go, surrounded by his loving daughters. March, you gave him a sendoff that speaks volumes for what a good guy he must have been. Lucky Dad.
    Sorry for the yuck that death brings and the unfocused, underwater feeling you may be living right now.
    Sending you cyber hugs to help you through.
    Caleche parfum is heavenly, I have some of the older stuff and it makes my heart thump with excitement.
    Love you buddy,
    Portia xx

  • marjo56 says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. I am a loyal reader of the PP blog, although I hardly ever comment (my English is not that good). My father also died recently, and I recognize the mixed feelings of gratefulness and grief. I love the poetry you read at the funeral. It’s very beautiful and the finding of the perfume is so poetic in itself. What a gift!

  • sarahpatto says:

    Thinking of you March. I’m sorry to hear the news.

  • Maya says:

    Your post brought up a lot of very sad feelings. I lost my father several years ago and it broke my heart. I was not going to comment but I did want to tell you that my feelings and thoughts are with you.

  • melissa says:

    So sorry for your loss. What beautiful poetry and how poetic to come across a beautiful fragrance in the midst of grieving.