A few years ago for Christmas, my Mother gave me a gift. It was a bottle of perfume. It looked expensive from the beautiful box it came in.
It’s from the specialty perfume store in Portland she said. I thought you would like it.
It seemed an odd gift to me, usually perfumes come from lovers or you choose one based on the paper flips of a magazine. It is a highly personal decision.
“Give it a try,” she said. Me still feeling odd receiving a very personal gift from my Mom.
I squirted it on my wrist, and the waves of scent hit my nose.
“It’s Grandma. I said as tears welled in my eyes. In that moment I had been instantly transported back in time, sitting in a chair next to my grandmother, smelling her, listening to her speak in that tone and say “Well, Hi There!” in her excitedly twangy, welcoming tone.
We were playing cards, she was cooking. She taught me to knit with her crumpled up fingers, so patiently and intently. The excruciating time I let her down by saying I had cleaned my room when I actually hadn’t simply because I believed she wouldn’t climb the stairs to check. “I’m very disappointed in you. ” It cut like a knife. I never wanted to disappoint her again.
She was the one who always remembered birthdays, with a dollar or a penny in the wallet or purse that came with it. Since we were out of town, we got money more than gifts. A five dollar bill until 18, then everyone was ratcheted down to a dollar as she had many family members to send cards too.
Her handwriting, the cards she bought. How she used to cut the front off the Christmas cards she had received to use as gift tags the year after. Everything she did. She was the glue that held the family together.
I remember the last time I saw her, my aunt was very sick. We sat together in her little house in the desert. She said how she feared outliving another one of her children. My Uncle Jerry had died in a car crash along with his wife years before.
She teared up and said she couldn’t go through that again.
“I don’t know why I’m living this long.” It was heart breaking, as I knew Diane was very sick, the color of her skin a bright yellow from jaundice, the doctor’s couldn’t help her. I held her hand and listened. Cried along side her.
She would walk everyday, no matter what. I would go with her. She would often stoop to pick up a random rubber band on the path.
That’s your grandpa checking in. “How?” I asked.
“Grandpa Art always had a rubber band or two around his wrist because you always need a rubber band.”
Not long after our last trip to see Grandma and Diane, Grandma fell and broke her hip. She was to go into surgery the next day.
She died in her sleep that night. Died on her terms, without outliving another one of her children.
A few days ago my Mom was over, and when she was leaving I asked her if she wanted to smell Grandma.
“Yes, Caron’s Bellagia?”
“I’ll get it,” It had been awhile since i had pulled it out.
She sprayed her neck and her wrists. I did the same. There was a calmness that enveloped us. A peace.
She was here, with us, in us. Always.
He courage, her spunk, her love.
The feelings, the history, captured in the fragrance inside a bottle.
One of the best gifts I’ve ever received.