Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Wednesday, October 11, 2017
As my grandmother climbed into her 80’s, I think she recognized that time was winding down. And though it hurts to remember, I wasn’t too surprised the day she announced, “Your grandfather and I are going back to Canada next spring for one last time”. She and “Puppy” took a trip to Nova Scotia every couple of years to visit Pictou and Prince Edward Island. Although it was the place where my grandfather spent his childhood, it was a world much more fully embraced by “Nana Mac” who found inspiration in the craggy landscape and especially in my grandfather’s rich Scottish heritage.
I tried to visit my grandparents weekly, making trips from rural Western Massachusetts to their Boston apartment. One afternoon, soon after my grandmother’s proclamation, I found that she had laid a cloth over the leather card table she kept folded in the living room. But instead of our customary lunch of chicken salad sandwiches and iced tea, she had strewn twelve tea cups with matching saucers across the snowy cloth. Oh was I ever familiar with those beautiful cups – each one a different eye-catching pattern. They were all dainty and delicate as bone china is, but the varying motifs and colors had been deeply alluring to my young self. Of course, my sister and I were never allowed to play with the cups but they were regularly brought down from the hutch in the dining room and put into service for Nana Mac’s bewitching afternoon tea parties for us. We learned the value of fine things at her knee and loved the uniquely individual cups and saucers.
“Pick six!” Nana Mac directed me as she gleefully clapped her hands together. I didn’t have to think too long – I already knew which of the beautiful cups were my favorites. I shyly pointed to the two rose-sprigged cups first – one in coral pink and one in baby blue, then the very unusual harlequin cup, and at last, the three etched in gold. Nana Mac carefully wrapped my selections in newspaper and then placed them in a brown paper bag. When she finished, she leaned into me with a conspiratorial wink and whisper, “You selected all my favorites”. I was delighted when after that chicken salad and iced tea lunch, the plain paper bag with its fragile treasures was thrust into my arms with a kiss.
Nana Mac never did make that final journey to her beloved Nova Scotia with my grandfather. She died unexpectedly on a clear cold morning in early winter. And it wasn’t until spring that year when my sister finally opened her own bundle of cups and saucers. As we poured hot tea into two of the precious bestowals, I noticed my sister’s voice becoming thick and soft with emotion. “Nana said she saved her favorites for me”. Or so I thought I heard her whisper…
Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Tomorrow is my birthday. Again. They sure do come fast and furious now - like contractions. And yet, I still get a little secret thrill from them although I would not admit that out loud to anybody. Nevertheless, like a child, I will probably have a delighted feeling inside all day. I'm too adult (or too old) to expect presents and cake but what I've discovered through the years is that I need neither to feel loved on my day.
I recall nearly all my birthdays. Shout out an age and I could probably tell you how I celebrated. 9! Oh that was the birthday my older brother ripped up his leg on an old standing pipe in the backyard and my party had to disband for a bloody trip to the ER - we never even lit the candles on the cake. 17! How could I forget the first birthday I received a present from a boy - a way-too-sophisticated-for-me gold watch with black Roman numerals I could barely read. 23! That birthday occurred in the middle of my bridal year and the evening sparkled more than the diamond on my finger. 30! A sad little birthday alone with my baby in a big house - but her kisses and pats saw me through. 40!, 47!, 53!...and so it goes. And goes...
What I love most about my birthdays now are the cards I receive. For two days I let them stand like soldiers on my bookshelf. I'm tempted to take a picture of them and unabashedly show them off but it's what's written inside that slays me the most. Winsome phrases and words that make me feel cherished. A friend from far away who tells me that she misses me or even better - that she thinks of me. Imagine that. Thank you, Carol, I think of you, too.
I am always charmed as well, when a well-wisher's card depicts something meaningful to me. Such was the card I received yesterday from my sister - knowing how much I adore blue and white china and orchids, she somehow found a card with both! Cards like my sister's say more than Happy Birthday...they say "I know you". It's always nice to read, "I saw this and thought of you", as Judy's card did today when she sent one with a lovely woman on her bed with a laptop. Yep, that's me, even now as I write for you here. Judy knows. Karen knows too with all the marvelous fairy dust cards she finds just for me. "The more glitter, the better", we both agree. Dear Karen, I feel the sparkling love.
I expect birthday greetings from my beautiful niece who always nails it with particularly thoughtful cards, my daughter who finds just the right words to tug at her mother's heart. And my mother, whose cards I deem especially sacred now - her prim handwriting is still the same as the notes she wrote to my school teachers long ago, but the pretty script belies the passage of time...
And so, on my birthday's eve, I ask you - why should I not feel a secret little thrill?
Sunday, October 1, 2017
I hadn't tried L'Air du Temps in a long time. Even though it is considered a classic fragrance, it's always been a loyal drugstore brand although I haven't seen it at my local CVS in a while.
For many years, there was a small independent pharmacy in the village where I live. At the back counter, past all the remedies, were several bottles of L'air du Temps in creamy white boxes. One dark night - a very rainy one, I happened to see a slender hooded figure walk to the back of the pharmacy and in a whisper, ask for a bottle of L'Air du Temps. As if he had done it a hundred times before, the kindly old pharmacist reached for a box from the shelf behind him, opened it carefully, and then displayed in his palm, the crystalline Lalique bottle to what turned out to be our town's beautiful young heiress. Rumor has it...
The romance of that moment - which could have taken place in the very heart of Paris - the lore, the stormy night is what I recalled when I saw this lovely ad from Seventeen '73. And here, L'Air du Temps is called "The Romantic Perfume" and I think they've illustrated it very nicely with the young woman with long blond tresses in a simple hat who surprisingly resembles our curious young villager.
My imagination surmises that our heiress could probably purchase the most costly perfumes in the world (the family business is a very well-known hosiery empire) and yet, she shops at the local pharmacy in a small fishing village for her bottle of The Most Romantic Perfume. But that doesn't surprise me really because although she is a rather ethereal personage, I do see her locally from time to time.
After researching the scent, I decided I wanted to sample it again. I went to a perfume outlet that sells overstock fragrances and found a small tester. Still being a rather inexpensive perfume, I was surprised to smell how full-bodied it is. There is a hint of Bergamot but the peppery carnation made me sneeze. The bottle is breathtakingly beautiful and indeed romantic, with two doves nuzzling each other in translucent glass - it must look impressive on a dresser or vanity. The history of L'Air du Temps was interesting to read, especially that the fragrance was created after WWII and that its iconic bottle was designed with world peace in mind.
However much I reject the perfume for myself, it will always be associated with our lithe and somewhat otherworldly village heiress. She certainly trails a storied and romantic wake...
Do you wear L'Air du Temps? I would love to hear about it...
PS: Thank you for all your thoughtful comments of late. I hope to write more frequently in October.