When I was 15 years old I was on a Sabena flight from JFK to Brussels, beginning a journey that would in many ways stay with me for the rest of my life. As it turns out, it wouldn’t just be the experiences and the memories that would change me for the long term, there was something else about to happen on that fateful day.
The flight was long, and for a 15 year old with a group of other teenagers who didn’t know each other, starting out on a month long backpacking train trip through unknown lands, it was a time to get to know the other travelers and, as we found out during that trip, ourselves.
About half way through the flight, after the food had been served, the movie shown, and we had loosened up a bit, the duty-free shopping cart came through. I bought a small bottle of perfume spray, which at the time cost only $15. Even a kid could afford that, right?
I didn’t know the perfume, I was only a few years removed from kiddie cosmetics and only recently introduced to the teen girl right of passage that was Love’s Baby Soft. Even then I knew baby powder mixed with bubble gum wasn’t my scent. Even by that tender age that particular smell had accumulated some bad memories attached to it (it’s amazing how two weeks at camp can really ruin a smell when all the girls used it instead of showering!)
The trip was amazing, interesting, insightful and all that it was supposed to be, including rain, pain, wine and arguments; mixed with awe, inspiration, friendship and french pastries.
On the flight back the duty-free cart came back. I bought another bottle. I liked the scent, and the memories that I had made wearing it.
Over 30 years since I still wear it, every day. I’ve tried others over the years, but they’re never quite right, including some of the variations of the Opium perfume brand which were particularly disastrous! According to the description of the type of scent, however, it shouldn’t suit me:
Oriental fragrances with dominant amber are placed in a separate group thanks to their accentuated warmth and sensuality. Their opulent bouquet includes intoxicating and intensive substances such as musk, vanilla, exotic resins and wood, often accompanied with exotic flowers and spices.
The description doesn’t fit me. In fact, there are some scents associated with Oriental fragrances I simply cannot tolerate. I can’t bear the scent of sandalwood. A a mere whiff of Patchouli makes me want to alternately puke or smack a hipster. The aroma of vanilla has been permanently associated with dog pee. Yet whatever mix of these typical oils it liquid identity to me.
We’ve been through a lot together, those little bottles and me. A LOT! Different styles, different sizes, different designs, even the different “strengths”, different countries, different homes, different friends. Yet no matter where I’ve lived or how long I’ve lived there, there have been empty bottles stashed in closets or drawers, to use up every last bit inside.
I learned a lot that trip. And some of it stuck.