First 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?