House of Ghosts


Assuming I haven’t been hit by a bus, I’m off to an undisclosed location with the Big Cheese for the rest of the week celebrating our 20th anniversary — which is, in fact, today.   It’s hard to believe we’ve been married 20 years; it feels like three years and 70 simultaneously.   His brother is watching our kids (sucker!), so they won’t be with us, and we won’t have internet access.  I guess we’ll have to think of something else to do to fill the time.  I have some ideas.

The blog still appears to be named Perfume Posse, so in theory this should be a perfume post or, if not, one of my sappy treatises on fambly dynamics.  I guess I’ll aim for the middle.

My obsession with perfume arose out of pretty much nowhere a few years ago, connected to nothing.  As with any passion acquired later in life, my perfume addiction has required my domestic partner to develop some patience and a modicum of understanding.  Well, mostly patience.  As I type this I notice the scent of the retro-fab Dana “Gardenias in the Snow” is still wafting up from tissue paper it leaked onto in the mail, tissue paper now in the trash can under my desk in the office the Cheese and I share.  The smell is like a big white floral presence wearing maybe a little too much face powder.   Given that this is where I open the mail, our office is littered with small envelopes and boxes and the air is always reeking of something.  I try to keep my endless bottles and decants and vials out of the way, but I don’t think you’d have to take more than a few steps anywhere in my house to find some fragrance to sample.  (We won’t discuss the nail polish.   The Cheese is gritting his teeth and pretending not to notice that burgeoning collection.)

I have often replied to the perfume question with the answer: because it makes me feel happy.  But that isn’t entirely accurate.  A better answer would be: because it makes me feel.  Because perfume became, perhaps by default and in place of, say, opera or baked goods, the quickest way to trigger my emotions.  I’m not sure how good a perfume critic I am, but I’ll never be a dispassionate or objective one.  I just walked around the second floor.  It’s raining, hard, and has been since last night – the road through the woods down by the creek is closed.  I can hear the water gurgling in the gutters and dripping from the eaves and hissing down the brick and across the driveway, dripping from the leaves of the roses nodding their heads outside.  The air is humid but cool, just the way I like it. My guest bedroom has taken on a tangible air of nostalgia – it’s where most of my vintage fragrances reside.   I suppose I should be worried, the perfume smell in there means something isn’t properly sealed.  Instead, each time I walk through that room on the way to the library to read, I am transformed for a few seconds into a willowy girl from an earlier era, wearing a shirtwaist dress, red lipstick and sassy shoes.

Perfume trails me everywhere.  It reaches out to me from the hall table, the armoire in the bedroom, from beside the toaster in the kitchen, from the counter in the laundry room.   I have created a house of ghosts – laughing, pleading, mournful, playful.   I wonder whether anyone else living here sees them, feels them the way I do.   I sniff my wrist, lost in time, standing in front of the kitchen sink making dinner, or at the bathroom mirror.  Or while reading contracts at my desk.   Driving my children everywhere, running errands, always running.

The road we’ve been on for the last year is pretty weird.   I don’t know how I got here, and I sure as hell don’t know where I’m going.  But I got what I wished for – an interesting life – so I’m not complaining.  Just turn the radio up and hand me that little bottle, it’s vintage Mitsouko PDT.  It’s the bees’ knees, it really is.

I’ll see y’all next week.  Perfume, I promise.

Photo:  I know I’ve stuck this up here once before, but that’s me and the Cheese (center) on our wedding day, this pic still makes me smile.

  • bella says:

    i had no idea what you looked like–GORGEOUS! Happy Anniversary to you and the Cheese

  • R.J. says:

    You are truly beautiful in that picture…you are perfection!

  • Cynthia says:

    Beautiful, evocative writing. Well said!

  • annie says:

    Oh,March;what a wonderful wedding picture….many ghosts swirling around there…what fragrance did you wear on your wedding day???

  • Meliscents says:

    Ghosts! I guess I’d never thought of it that way, but how perfect.
    I remember watching a show on ghosts once where they said they knew the spirit had been in a room when they smelled lilacs. My vintage bottles DO release the spirits of time & of the women who may have owned the bottles & loved them as much as I do. My favorite thing is to sit on the floor in front of my antique curio cabinet, open the doors & take a deep breath. I can’t help but smile. And thank goodness for my wonderful husband (we just made it to our 4th anniversary unless you count the 4 years before that). He just walks around me and says, “honey, are you in your happy place?” Fragrance is so important that I get up in the middle of the night to put something on if I can’t sleep. The right perfume is better than a pill to put me out like a light. Thanks so much for your story and have a wonderful time with your husband. And Congrats! You two are a lovely couple. I hope you have another 20, happy years!

  • Susan says:

    What a wonderful, timeless photo.
    Happy anniversary!

  • Connie says:

    What a gorgeous photo … and such beautiful words.

    Happy Anniversary!

  • JAntoinette says:

    A beautiful post, thank you for sharing.
    Happy anniversary!

  • sweetlife says:

    Oh, March, look how tiny and lovely and funny you are in that photo! Wait a minute, that’s *exactly how you look now…*

    Happy Anniversary!

    And of course I love this post. Right up my haunted alley.

  • helenviolette says:

    Elbowing into the Arpege conversation- love that lovely- and I also love the current version- i think it is a bit more assertive than the vintage…

  • helenviolette says:

    Happy happy anniversary March! Beautiful and evocative post- and love your weddin photo 😉 I think it is only fitting (and lucky) that 20 years can be both a deep breath and blink…

    I have a spritz of Bandit on my left forearm and it is haunting/stunning tonight- I have come back to this one several times and have gone through many stages of feeling for this one (and isn’t that another great aspect of this obsession? to get to feel and keep feeling?)

    Have a GREAT time on top secret anniversary vacation with the Cheese. Cheers!

  • tammy says:

    Ah…I have goose-bumps! Thans for such a lovely post. And a very happy anniversary to you and you husband!!

  • ula says:

    happy anniversary to both of you and thanks for the post! it pretty much sums up how I feel about perfume; more then a liquid, it is memories and emotions encapsuled in bottles…

  • Christine says:

    Happy Anniversary March! And a woman after my own heart…I’m currently trying to hunt down a reasonably priced/but high quality all lace dress for my very! upcoming wedding in October. I should probably get ordering.

    Hope you have a lovely trip!

  • Patty says:

    Happy anniversary to you both. I love that picture, and I love this post. My house is filled with fragrant ghosts too, and it is an adventure just to walk around it.

  • Natalie says:

    Happy anniversary, and bon voyage! Twenty years is nothing to sneeze at — that’s an amazing accomplishment, and I hope you enjoy the next 20 as much as the last.

  • Flora says:

    Have a wonderful time!!

    And it may be a house full of ghosts, but they smell a lot better than any other ghosts I know of! ;-D

  • carter says:

    That photo looks as if it could have been taken just yesterday. So charming and gay! It is a lovely picture of a lovely couple. Twenty years and a kid or three later, nothing’s changed.

    Well done, you, and happy anniversary to the lovely couple!

  • minette says:

    love the love in your post. enjoy your anniversary (i know you will), and have a safe trip home.

  • rosarita says:

    Happy Anniversary to you both! Have a wonderful time together on your mystery trip. I do love your wondrously evocative descriptions, M; thanks for another lovely post. 🙂

  • Tara says:

    I would like to second Olfacta’s lovely response. Have a great time and congratulations!

  • Anthony says:

    That was wonderful, March. Congratulations and enjoy your undisclosed area vacation 😀

  • Linda says:

    Happy, happy anniversary! Enjoy!

  • violetnoir says:

    Honey, you are still that willowy, sassy girl with the red lipstick!

    Happy 20th Anniversary to you and the Cheese!

    Hugs and love!

  • tmp00 says:


    I’ve met you, remember? You look about three minutes older than your wedding photo.

    Perfume is a great memory inducer, isn’t it?

  • OperaFan says:

    March, you mentioned the “O” word, so I decided to “chime” in for the first time on these pages. First of all, Happy Anniversary! I’m about to celebrate #4 with MY Cheese (though I’m much older than the anniversary years imply…).
    This post was beautifully written, and perfumes ARE far more accessible than Opera. But Opera, for me (especially live performances) goes much deeper and affect me in a different way. That said, I love the different dimensions of “feelings” perfumes can bring, and the experience is easily repeatable – like recordings! Thanks to you and the “Posse” group for opening the forum for sharing our thoughts.

  • mals86 says:

    I agree, this is a Perfume Post! I begin to understand that my (relatively new) perfume habit has everything to do with my quest for More Life: more self-awareness, more adventure, more emotion, more memories, more connection, more meaning, more story, more beauty.

    And I wish you and the Cheese many years of More Life Together.

  • Marina says:

    Happy Anniversary! Have a wonderful time!

  • Mindy says:

    I love this post! Beautiful picture and words.

  • Shelley says:

    Oh, but March-a, you have given us a perfume post today. 🙂

    I love this, how it shows the insides of a life–how the perfume fits in there, a hint of the there that is there. And I particularly love that you acknowledge that milestones and an unpredictable road are part of the there.

    Happy Anniversary to both of you.

  • Olfacta says:

    Perfume is beauty, and beauty is in such short supply. I think all of us want to be it, be in it, be inside it, trail it, and that’s why we love fragrance so much.

    A really beautiful post. Congratulations!

  • sara says:

    terrific picture! congratulations and happy anniversary!

  • Sweet Sue says:

    Happy Anniversary. What a gorgeous couple!

  • Jamie says:

    Have a wonderful anniversary, and thank you for validating the answer I always give when my husband asks why (becoming a little more frequent these days) – which is always verbatim “because it makes me happy”. Now I can also add, and because it makes me feel. Perfect.

    Beautiful photograph, beautiful memories.


  • WaftbyCarol says:

    ” If I could save time in a bottle ,
    if dreams could make wishes come true
    I would save every day like a memory
    and then I would spend them with you…”
    Jim Croce

  • Musette says:

    Marchalicious –

    Happy Anniversary – I hope all of them bring you comfort and joy….and that there are many, many more of them.

    Your post is lovely. You are lovely. Your fambly is lovely. I’m so grateful to know you!


  • Leslie says:

    Great picture! Happy anniversary, and I hope you have a really lovely time on your trip.

  • Melissa says:

    Beautiful post and perfect for me after a day spent going through my elderly mother’s clothes and other possessions. Alzheimers has rendered her unable to make wardrobe decisions and my father lacks the patience to assist her. So my father asked me to start removing clothing that will never be worn again.

    So there I was, paring down a once lovely wardrobe, now in disarray, and of course I came upon her vintage bottles of L’Air du Temps, L’Interdit and a very old bottle of Gucci. To soothe my mother, we did a little spritzing. The top notes were off, but the ghosts emerged a few minutes later, just as I knew they would.

    • Musette says:


      That is a lovely moment to share with your mother – enjoy them. I lost my mother, suddenly, 20 years ago and while the grief is long gone I still miss her. She wore L’Origan and whenever I smell it I think of her. It brings back lovely memories.

      So glad you and your mother could connect, via the scented memory.


  • GalileosDaughter says:

    Happy anniversary! That photo is beautiful and joyful. Thank you for sharing it and your perfume passion with us.

  • Nava says:

    Happy anniversary to you and the Cheese. May you have many, many more wonderful, happy and interesting years together.

    I completely understand the ghosts. I have my own group that followed me from up north and taken up residence with me here in NoVA. The perfume ones, too. 😉

  • Robin says:

    Have a great time, M!

  • Elle says:

    Happy anniversary! That photo is wonderful! The perfect visual of a joyful day.
    And I love this idea of scents as ghosts! Another brilliant visual – will always have that in my mind now. Thanks! I can’t imagine my life w/out all these spirits densely populating my home. Scent really is the perfect vehicle to give life, invisible form to all my memories and emotions. They enrich my life immensely. Can’t even imagine ever being w/out them.

  • Louise says:

    Congrats and have a wonderful escape from the chittlins 😉

    Perfume makes me feel as well; perfumistas too! I find myself lately having clear cravings, just like for my sweets…last night I Needed Incense before bed; today I needed aldehydes (Arpege won the contest). These craving surely reflect some chemical dependency issues, but I refuse to deal with this “problem”, preferring to indulge and remain in deep denial :))

    • Musette says:

      Lou-ise (that only works if you’re a Bette Davis fan:-) Arpege for you, too? I thought I was the only Arpeger in this vast, wonderful group.

      I love Arpege.


    • Shelley says:

      I didn’t know until yesterday’s post & comments that Louise shared the Arpege love. Today, I find you. Arpege was not a love at first sight for me, but it has so steadily burrowed it’s way under my skin that now it merits being considered for my banishment to the Congo. Go figure.

      • Musette says:

        Ha! How cool is the Arpege Love!! I could see that, easily. I am longing to sniff the vintage against the current (which I have) – are you in vintage?


        • Shelley says:

          Mid-range vintage, I guess. Nothing OLD, no heavy concentration…Eau de Arpege, that Lanvin-esque way of describing the concentration. And I rather like the current iteration as well.

          • Musette says:

            Bring it! (pleeeeze?) just for a sniff.


            ps. I like the current iteration, too!

          • Louise says:

            So far, only have the modern edp-which is really lovely; however, have some vintage winging it’s way to me as we “speak” :))

          • Shelley says:

            And the best part is, I can find it pretty regularly at my local Loehmann’s. (Ka-ching!) 😉

  • Francesca says:

    Congratulations! I’m celebrating 29 with my own honey, and I still feel like he’s my boyfriend, not my husband. I love that photo of you, too.

  • Annelie says:

    Congrats to the anniversary, I am also looking forward to me and my husbands 20ieth wedding day this year. And I totally agree on how hard it´s to belive it´s been that long…

  • Amie says:

    Agree – I am a haunted woman. Sniffing the air of a woman who hurries past me, wondering what she’s wearing. Wondering if other people can smell what I am wearing. Walking the dog and thinking about what scents would layer nicely… first husband had no sense of smell (at all, in reality) 2nd hubby must now be good and diligent to report when – in his opinion – I smell great!

    Congratulations on the anniversary – and your sense of taste and smell, of course!

  • Tania says:

    The ghosts fight in my flat, it’s too small for them all 😉 I know what you mean, though. I catch wafts from my collection and my candles all the time, and I sometimes get images in my head. Currently, a line of French nuns is walking prayerfully though my hall (Cire Trudon Vespers candle).

    I just wish my perfume obsession would overcome my food obsession, Mitsi is better for my figure than Godiva chocs!

    I love that photo.

  • Jan v says:

    Great post-love the vivid description of the hard-rainy day, the sounds of the water gurgling in the gutters and splashing onto the leaves of your roses, et al. Brilliant, also, the ghosts in your house! I felt like I was there as I read it and I get a similar sensation at times myself. Have a wonderful 20th anniversary week-and thanks for the photo-of course you’re beautiful and the Cheese looks like a definite keeper!

  • dinazad says:

    Lovely post and lovely pic, March, thank you! And congratulations on your wedding day!

  • Eva says:

    March what a fab photo! And I like your response about making you feel. For me NOTHING can change, lift, elevate, calm, soothe and excite as quickly as fragrance – maybe music – but perfume is always accessible. Can’t imagine a day without perfume in my life – even if it is just a gorgeous skin lotion on those rare few days a year when I cannot decide on any perfume. 🙂