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Featured Memoir

From Olfactory Memoirs' Writing Prompt: The smell of a pet you had when you were a kid

mr poo was his name, an all black Manx, who was quite annoyed if you ever touched his little bobbed tail and made a laugh - he roamed outdoors, and therefore always smelled of the earth and sky - to bury my nose into his fur when we slept at night, felt whispers of 'freedom'. he is a particularly bittersweet memory for me, as when one of my guardians died and our house went for sale, mr. poo went to a new home clear across the city of Seattle - however our bond was so great, he made his way back to me by foot ... when he arrived several weeks later, the smell of freedom felt disappeared, and inside there was a new smell that taught me of ardor and pain and persistence. he was sent away again, back to that same new home, and once again he ran away, yet in that escape never made it back to me. the interesting parallel, that prompts me now to open and write this, is when my Zoe Bella came to me 11.5 years ago, her aroma was completely opposite - sweet, creamy and delicious as a powder puff with hints of cotton and caramel ... all our years together, this was her scent. when she became ill this summer, her smell changed -- it was for me a near instant memory regained, the same smell of mr. poo in that return to me - inside I knew she was leaving and indeed a month later she was gone.

- Éva-Marie Lind

Taste of Scent

ROSEWATER fragranced ice cream
ORANGE BLOSSOM scent of jam and moustache wax
MIMOSA smell of ointment
JASMINE lather of Chinese soap
CARDAMOM crush of pudding
LIME chill of faloudeh
BERGAMOT aroma of tea
MINT muddle of sharbat
CILANTRO funk of koukou
SAFFRON sublimation of rice
CUMIN cohabitation with raisin
CORIANDER crunch of tahdeek
TURMERIC earth of broth
ANGELICA seeded pomegranate
HYACINTH scented Now Ruz table
ESFAND smoking the evil eye

- Maggie Mahboubian

A Bygone Fashion

In the early 1960s, when the fog rolled in off the ocean onto Point Loma, and the mornings were too damp and chilly to play outside, I loved to snuggle and hide in my mother’s fur closet. Opening one of the master bedroom closet doors with my small hands, I’d tug aside the heavy coats to lift the hidden brass latch, releasing the smell of pine. I’d crawl into the small space and close the door behind me. The fact that it was as dark as a cave inside and verboten made it even more exciting and scary. In the quiet, I’d rub my nose into the deep fur of my mother’s mink coat and a musty primal scent with a tinge of cigarette smoke would permeate my being. Then I’d caress the white fox fur, a fluff of tenderness. I avoided though the one with beady-eyed heads on either end. 

Although I couldn’t make them out in the blackness, I knew what each looked like from seeing them wrapped around my mother’s shoulders on her way to a cocktail party or charity ball. Her hair done up just so with a bright red lipstick smile. A favorite was the lime green dress with the slits over the bust that made her look like Marilyn Monroe, especially when smoking a cigarette or waving a martini glass. I couldn’t wait until I was a big girl and could wear one of those furs to a party too. 

A few years ago they were passed down to me, but I never got to sport them in public. It is forbidden by our society now to wear fur. Before I gave them away I put my nose into the mink stole again to smell the musty scent one last time, and with tears in my eyes, memories of my mother’s beauty during that era came rushing back to me again.

- Jill G. Hall

Dewy Grass

It was 12th grade. I was 17 years old and I dropped out of high school and like went on the run. I was couch surfing and stayin’ in my friend’s mom’s garage and stuff like that. Doing a lot of drugs. Basically like kind of a homeless person.

And I met this girl who lived across the hall from my mom. My mom lived downtown in a loft on 10th and E St. And I met this girl, this 21 or 22 year old woman who lived across the hall, and she was like an ecstasy dealer. For some reason we hit it off. I can’t explain it, but she liked me for some reason. I was only 17, but whatever. 

So we would hang out. And I didn’t know what ecstasy was - this was like 1986. I don’t know if it was illegal yet, or if it was semi-legal. But we took ecstasy and somehow wound up in Balboa Park. I don’t know how we got there. I just have these vivid memories of it being late, late night, early morning, maybe the sun just coming up, and us rolling around in dewy grass on a hill. It was a little bit south of the fountain. And we were like … It was like this hallucinatory ecstasy and this incredibly blissed out trip that you’re on, and there’s water and you can smell the grass and we were tangled up. We had our clothes on, but it was like we were semi making out. It was rad.

Of course, that experience in my life ended horribly. I ended up begging my parents for help, and went to rehab for a while and all this crazy stuff. So it was mostly shit that was punctuated by awesome moments like that. 

- Anonymous

Olfaction on a trip to Bermuda

Scent has been a part of my life since I can remember; the scent of places, the scent of people, the scent of things. 

The very earliest memory, around three or four, was of my mom's Chanel No5, first thing in the morning, after she left for the office. The kitchen would have the lingering, aromatic molecular mixture of White flowers, Aldehydes and Arachis hypogaea, also known as peanut-butter toast. The second memory is from the same timeframe when Lena, our babysitter, would take us over to her house, where her husband smoked pipe tobacco. I vividly remember watching him play pool in their basement, me sitting on a black leather bar stool, breathing in the acrid, dense air of pipe smoke, spicy Avon cologne and chalk dust from the pool cue. 

At the age of five we went on a trip to Bermuda, where we toured the island for a number of days. Having parents that were travel agents, it seemed that we got to visit every museum and interesting sight, no matter where we traveled. Looking back, I have to thank my parents for exposing me to such amazing art, culture and experiences. Today being Fathers day, I'm posting a picture of my sister, my dad and me standing at one of the armaments from that trip to Bermuda.

During that trip we visited a small perfumery, which I don't remember the name, but might have been The Bermuda Perfumery. The tour of the small perfumery included seeing how they made and bottled the perfume, as well as some of the techniques for creating raw materials. At that time they had raised tables, with wooden legs and glass plates slathered with fat and flowers placed upside-down. I can still see myself on tip toes, looking over the edge of the tables, inhaling the scent. To this day, whenever I take a tour of a city, museum or attend a class, I'm very attentive, never wanting to miss a piece of information. I recall them telling us about how they made perfumes and essences, it all seemed so logical. 

On that trip to Bermuda, I remember getting a few things: my blue t-shirt that said "I Survived the Bermuda Triangle", a slice of aromatic wood with a crystal attached and a profound olfactory experience that inspired my lifelong pursuit of aromatics. The t-shirt is long gone, the aromatic wood, which I deeply inhaled the scent for years, is lost to time but the experience at the perfumery is with me every day. I have my father searching for the photos from that tour. My family remembers many of the photos, but after all these years, which box are they in? Thank you dad for looking for those photos and making my life happen.

- Daniel Krasofski