blog post about smell and memories, and this got me to thinking.
I came from a relatively small family (pun intended). I have a total of five cousins (all still living) and just three aunt-and-uncle combinations (all gone now).
The aunt that I was closest to while growing up was my father's sister. Before I was old enough to go to school, Aunt Helen used to take me to her Circle's luncheons. That's my earliest memory of church: watching/helping Aunt Helen and the ladies produce chicken a la king in the church kitchen.
As I grew up, I realize that in some ways she was stuck in a different time period, always with a 1920s style haircut and a favorite expression of "Golly Day, Kid!" She was partial to the color green, frequently wore a single strand of large pearls, and her signature fragrance was Emeraude, by Coty.
When I was a child, she lived in a row house in North Philadelphia. On important occasions, the entire family would somehow crowd around the table in her small dining room, but I always got down as soon as I finished eating because I wanted to go sit in the wonderful wooden rocking chair in the living room, and look at the National Geographic magazines accumulated nearby. The front porch was about the size of a handkerchief, and I loved it because it provided a view of the busy schoolyard across the street.
Our family wasn't very demonstrative. Looking back, I know love was there, though seldom mentioned. Aunt Helen somehow had a knack my mother lacked: She made it clear that she loved me.
When Aunt Helen passed away, very suddenly, Joe and I were living in another state, and couldn't afford to come home for her funeral. I felt awful, and I still feel bad about that, forty years later.
Not long after her passing, still living far from home, I was shopping at a very big clothing sale at the local department store. It was crowded and as I was rifling through a rack of sweaters and shirts, someone came up behind me and began her own search of the tops. My next breath confused me mightily. Only one person in my entire life had carried that scent. Emeraude, by Coty. I didn't turn around, I abandoned the sweaters, I moved away and out of the store, needing to believe that somehow, some way, Aunt Helen was still in my life.
Thanks, Susan, for jogging this memory today.