First thing this morning when I woke up, I found this great little article on a friend’s facebook feed about smells of the 90s. And I don’t know what it means about me, but I’ve had particularly strong attachments to scents and their correlations with memories my entire life. My mama can attest to this—my obsession with smell goods started at a really young age and my childhood and adolescent bathtub at home always had about 6 kinds of bubble baths, 5 shower gels, 3 shampoos, 3 conditioners, and 2 face washes at any given time. Ben says his brother Tom and I are part hound dog because we both can smell the faintest smell from a mile away. Mallorie and I have even discussed before how she has no scent memories—no connections whatsoever. I can’t imagine that!
So all day today I made notes in the tiny little notebook I keep with me, making a comprehensive list of the smells (most of them discontinued and keeping me in pursuit via eBay for so many years) that have been major players in the story of my life. I’ll put a star by things that don’t exist anymore, in case you’re curious. I’m weird—I’m okay with that. You’re weird too, about something. But these are so much more than smells—they’re actual snapshots of memories that I can do over and over again everytime I breathe them in—if I can just find them. The internet makes it a lot easier, if you want to spend the money.
So I’ll break em all down by seasons of my life. Let’s take it from the top:
*Candy Kisses French Vanilla Lip Balm. This was my first lip balm that I can recall (6th grade?), and was the gateway drug to the millions of balms and glosses that followed. Lip balm is maybe my greatest addiction, and this one tasted like a dream. I first saw it on a counter in a hardware store (maybe Phillips’ Building Supply?) while I was running errands with daddy one Saturday morning. I wanted it so so so bad, but daddy, ever the pragmatist, shut me down. “You don’t need that.” I eventually got some and felt like a grown up as I smoothed on that sugary sweet shine.
*Teen Spirit Carribean Cool or California Breeze. My first deodorant. This is what the elementary school trip to Washington D.C. smelled like. Incidentally, it sounded like No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom.
Bath and Body Works Plumeria. When the Hattiesburg mall was brand new, way back in around 1994, mama and I made the first pilgrimage one Saturday morning. I went to Bath and Body Works for the first time ever, and I was in love. She let me pick out any bubble bath I wanted—and this was my chosen scent. I remember that Blues Traveler’s Run-Around was playing in the store. It was playing on the radio constantly then. I went home and that night had my first B&BW bubble bath.
Gap Dream. My first perfume. Kelsa wore Gap *Earth, Dream’s more mature sister. They were sold in little .5 ounce metal bottles, which made them the perfect choice for a 5th grader I guess. This is what going to Star Reach on Tuesdays and listening to Tori Amos’s Mr. Zebra in Kelsa’s old mustang smells like. Some girls were into Elizabeth Arden Sunflowers at this point, but I was all Dream.
*Aroma Tonic. This is what high school summers smelled like. My mama and I both wore it—bathed in it really. The light, bright, tart, citrusy gingery smell was amazing. Last spring I spent an obscene amount of money on a bottle of it and it’s been worth every cent. Every time I (sparingly) wear it, I feel 16. Fortunately, B&BW made White Tea and Ginger, a knock off version of it that’s really close…
But not exactly the same.
*John Frieda Beach Blonde. If you have any of this precious liquid lingering in your cabinets from the early 2000s, you’re sitting on big money. It goes for upwards of $100-200 per bottle on eBay, and that’s almost justifiable. It was made from salt water and coconut oil, smelled like a sunscreen dream and made my mermaid length hair look all California wavy, beachy awesome. Even on Hick Day at school:
Thankfully, Sedu makes a knock off of it that’s almost the exact same. I keep it in stock.
*Naturistics Sweet Lips. Specifically, the strawberry flavor. Jaime and I collected them all. You can find the other flavors all day long, still in the new packaging on eBay (which I’ve bought)… But that strawberry flavor. What I’d give to have it again! I mean, I can’t even find a picture of it it’s so rare. Caboodles made a knock for a time, but it also eventually disappeared. It came packaged in these tiny peculiar little aluminum tubes. They tasted even better than they smelled and actually worked by making your lips soft for a long time after it wore off.
Bath & Body Works Cucumber Melon. Nancy wore it religiously, and thus I did too. This is what it smells like to ride in a Jeep with the top off all summer long, to go to your favorite band’s concert in Biloxi. Fortunately, I can still buy this and smell teenage irresponsibility anytime.
Basis Cleaner Clean Face Wash. Even after all these years, I STILL love this face wash and use it daily. But I’m getting worried because it’s disappeared from shelves in recent months (it used to be available everywhere!), though I can still order it online. The smell is (much like Aroma Tonic), bright and citrusy, lemongrass and summery. It actually smells sort of like Sprite tastes, if I had to give it a flavor.
*Dove Deep Moisture Facial Lotion. Mama made sure I understood the importance of a face care routine with SPF moisturizers when I was really young. I tried Clinique and didn’t like it (no smell!), but found the magic of Dove face care in high school. I wore it for at least 10 years until it was discontinued, and I still try to find it online when I think about it. This is a scent that overlaps all the way into my post-collegiate years and Ben says he misses that smell when he kisses me goodnight. Me too. Waaaaaah! Close runner up that’s still available (though 10x more expensive)? Estee Lauder Daywear.
FALLING IN LOVE (or, college):
*Gap Simply White. Now these are the big leagues of my olfactory memories, with Simply White being the strong, wintry, romantic boss of them all. This is the exact, specific smell of falling in love with the biggest crush of my life—Ben Napier. More on that week here. Finding it on eBay is like striking gold. Whatever it costs, I pay. When I run out—I get more. There is no knock off of it of any kind. If I ever lose this scent, the visceral feeling of that memory will be lost forever. I keep one bottle at the studio, one at my parents, one at our house. If there is ever a house fire, I’ll be covered. Crazy? Nope. Protecting my valuables.
*Tutti Dolci Lip Gloss. I met Ben the Christmas when I worked at B&BW. Finally, right? My dream job! I alternated between the Cinnamon Frosting, Creme Brulee, Apple Torta, and Sugar Wafer flavors. Though I do remember that I was wearing Sugar Wafer for our first kiss. Amazing lip gloss, and I still buy it on eBay every fall. Seems easiest to get the Cinnamon Frosting flavor for some reason?
Lucky You Cologne. Ben’s signature smell since loooong before I knew him is the best men’s fragrance ever as far as I’m concerned. He’s a hugger—and people always comment on how great he smells. It used to be so expensive and only available in department stores, but now you can get it anywhere, even the Walmart perfume aisle. Which is convenient, no? When he leaves town occasionally, I spray it on my pillow at bedtime. It smells like home and Damien Rice’s ‘O‘. Combines nicely with his signature deodorant scent—Old Spice Aqua Reef.
*Spiced Apple Rapture Body Wash. Another B&BW favorite—though this one smells like breakfast at Bottletree Bakery and fall in Oxford, Mississippi. This is how it feels to be a senior at Ole Miss. I buy it every fall on eBay.
*Febreze Noticeables Calypso Breeze + Hawaiian Paradise. Can’t find it anywhere but Amazon occasionally, and I buy it in bulk when I do. I first plugged in the world’s best home fragrance in my summer apartment in Downtown Memphis for my internship and it followed me to the Oxford apartment Mallorie, Jennifer and I shared. It smells like this.
And that brings us up to date…
GROWN UP LIFE:
Kuumba Made Persian Garden. Another discovery made thanks to Kelsa—this amazing perfume oil that I rub onto my wrists and the backs of my hands (you leave this sweet, lovely scent in the air if you talk with your hands!) smells like 2010: my first carefree year of self-employment, long walks, sunshine and pure unadulterated happiness.
*Lemongrass and Cardamom. Typical. I fall in love, it gets discontinued. I have some left—it’s reserved for summertime use only. This is what Wakulla Springs, St. Augustine, and Charlie Mars’ Bay Springs Road smell like.
Gladys’ Kitchen Candle (and soap!) by Park Hill. This candle is on my coffee table year round because it smells just like Claire Burke’s Apple Jack and Peel (another super important childhood smell), and Andrea keeps it in stock at the Antique Mall.
And that sums it up. Those are the great smell memories of my life. Do you have a strong smell memory? Please say yes!