Friday, November 6, 2015

Nostalgia In a Junk Drawer

We all have them, those drawers in our kitchen or bathroom cabinets deep enough to stash the odds and ends we haven't any better place to store. In a last minute sweep just before company walks in, or on a long day after our organizing moxie runs out, in go those specimens defying categorization.

Fast forward several years.

The other day, in a rush to pull something out of a drawer, I must have closed it too abruptly—only to discover its disheveled contents upon my next foray into its holdings. With everything up-ended, I couldn't find the one item I was seeking. But I knew I had put it in there. I always keep it there, in its specific place. Now what?

Poking around in the nether reaches of that cavern, I surveyed all the items jarred out of their original resting places. Many of them, I confess, were artifacts of a younger era of parenthood—cute keepsakes from a preschooler, baby bows for a head crowned with peach fuzz instead of hair, broken jewelry and barrettes I had meant to repair when I had more time and patience.

Quickly, I pushed and shoved everything back into place, hoping to find that one item I had lost, when—crack!—an awful sound stopped me in my tracks. Simultaneously spying something from a childhood long before my daughter's, I had a sickening realization of what had just snapped.

I have three remembrances of my godmother, that glamorous yet mysterious woman who wafted in and out of my life in sync with her command performances on stages around the world. Each of those three were embodied in tokens gifted to me—of which, sadly, only one now remains—in visits upon her return to New York. One was a turquoise necklace—yes, real turquoise, for a mere child. Another was an elaborate gold-chained, hip-hugging belt, the likes of which I've never since seen. The third was encapsulated in a tiny box standing no taller than an inch and a half.

It was that miniature container that had broken.

Realizing immediately what had just happened, I looked for the contents I knew were supposed to be inside. In the force of the break, the lid had popped off the container, and I could easily see the box was now empty. But what was once inside was the part that had made it precious to me.

I was now on a mad hunt to find an object standing barely an inch tall and half an inch wide. Remember, this is in the far reaches of a cavernous junk drawer. Though I knew what I was seeking, I couldn't see it for all the mess.

Then came the long-overdue, tedious process of sorting out the items from the haphazard remains of years of stowing and stashing. In the end—this didn't help that it occurred past midnight—I located the precious missing item and quickly uncapped the clear glass bottle to see if it still held what I had saved it for: the scent.

Although the perfume that had once filled this tiny bottle was long gone, it had such a wonderful essence that I had kept the bottle. Opening it and letting a bit of the fragrance escape always reminded me of my prima ballerina godmother and of a time that, in perspective, seemed to waft from a bygone era. The minute I spotted the bottle in the midst of the turmoil—relieved that it, intact, was not the source of the sickening snapping sound initiating this wild pursuit—of course the first thing I did was to gently twist off the cap. And take a sniff.

Though the wonder of the full bodied scent has aged into oblivion, the call of its beguiling top notes still lingers in the empty bottle.

Perhaps, that is just as the memories have settled in my mind: lingering, not lost. The solitary essential essence, yet without its original substance.

It was the outer container that had sustained the break. An ivory cube encasing a tiny pedestal featuring the bottle of what must have been the vintage version of the French perfume by
Raphael called Replique, it was made of plastic. With age, it had become brittle. A little twisting of the container had snapped the runner on the pedestal designed to hold the bottle in place, and all had tumbled out upon the disheveled remembrances stowed in the back of a cabinet drawer.

Did I throw it out? Empty, it has long outlasted its material usefulness. But it serves a purpose beyond that of personal adornment—besides, how could a child of perhaps ten have grasped the full significance of such a gift?—in reminding me of a precious relationship. A part of my heritage. It will undoubtedly find its way upon a trash heap, when all who are left behind will not be moved by remembrances such as this.

But not today. Gently holding it, nudging it back into its now-faded container, I put the minute bottle back in its resting place. While I don't need it to recall the one it symbolizes, it's a token that still serves to provide a welcome reminder.



  1. It never ceases to amaze me how evocative a scent might be when it comes to triggering memories.

    If you had some of this perfume, would you wear it? :)

    1. That would be a dream, Iggy, but yes, I would--a dream, because, like hearing the original Swingle Singers again, it would be fairly impossible to recreate with certainty at this point. The perfume had undergone so many revisions to its formulation by Raphael that it is not the same as the original version once was. That's why it's a vintage scent. Now, just a misty memory...

  2. Of course you didn't throw it out...wonderful metaphor.

    1. Thanks, Ellie. No, although I have no idea what I will do with it, I don't think I could bring myself to that.

  3. You should search for a display box for your know a memory box:)

    1. Great idea. I'm not the crafty type, so things like that never occur to me. That would be a much nicer way to remember than hiding my stash in the back of a drawer!


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