I know, I know. You have seen this skirt many times before. It is my favourite skirt and I am a big believer in wearing clothes as much as you can. More on that on another day, because I think today is a good day to talk about nostalgia.
I don't know if it is the same for you (please, let me know if it is) but I find that smells have a very strong link to memories for me. They seem to conjure up the emotions I was feeling at the time, which are things that words can't always catagorise very well. For this reason I always try and take a new perfume with me whenever I go travelling. In Paris with my sister I took the scent of pure violets. A sniff of that and I'm back in Montmartre at golden hour by the carousel with so much happiness I could burst. I don't get that feeling when I look at the Polaroid I took of her moments later.
I was served by a customer last week who wore the same perfume as my aunt Betty in Spain. I had to ask her what the fragrance was because the moment I smelled it I was safe in Malaga, dangling my feet in the pool while my aunt's adopted cat smooched my sunscreen covered back. I was feeling nervous, shaken but happy and safe. I'd just had a really tough time in Paris and my aunt was doing a magnificent job of helping me regain my confidence.
After one of my sisters and my nephew died, everyone that my family had ever known us sent us flowers. We had more flowers and sympathy cards in our house than a florist. The lily, sympathetic flower of choice, was prominent amongst all those bunches and as the weeks went by our house was filled with the potent smell of lilies and dying flowers (not too dissimilar a fragrance). It was about a year later that I walked into a supermarket and through the entry which had flowers arranged right next to it. The smell of them, for me, was like a knock out punch. I was disoriented, lost, couldn't remember what I had gone there for and went back to sit in my car. That smell had dragged back the shock, trauma and wrongness of the world and my skin felt so thin that even the air hurt.
Lots of other smells have meaning for me. I usually forget about them until I smell that fragrance and I'm completely transported. Early grey tea. Oh my word. If I smell that bonza brew, every relaxing sigh I've ever made in my life comes flooding back. It's an immediate comfort zone scent for me.
My grandmother would walk down to the fence and call us to come inside. We would gather our treasures of apple blossoms and daffodils and walk back into the house. She would take our treasures from us and arrange them in a vase on the windowsill. Our hands smelled of daffodils and the breeze coming in through the open window would spread the fragrance from the vase around the kitchen. She would boil the kettle and would drink banana Quik. In amongst all these memories are my sisters long fingers, the dimples on her cheeks and the spring light making her blonde hair glow. I can also see my grandmother pouring milk into the rice pudding and using her knuckle to measure the right amount on the side of the bowl, singing under her breath. Both my sister and grandmother are gone, but so easily reanimated by the smell of a flower. What a happy discovery.
So today, for the memories, for the nostalgia, we are restyling my favourite skirt.
Location: Nahm Thai Cafe - Northbridge