Saturday, July 5, 2014

Birthday Gift

Back in the late 1970's when I was a young wife and mother with very little money, someone in our church began selling Avon products as a way to supplement her family's income. I sympathized with her plight, and so I found one thing to buy when she made her obligatory pitch over tea one afternoon. The "Dear Friends" cologne decanter (pictured above) with its lovely girl holding a cat reminded me of my then three-year-old daughter and her tenderness with a tiny orange kitten she named "Sweetheart" (because that was what I called her). The scent, "Roses, Roses," seemed like such an extravagance, but it really did smell just like roses, and I really did want to help out the young woman whose young family was struggling like my own.

So I bought the little decanter, and I kept it on my dresser, and every time I dressed for church or to go to dinner with my husband, I dabbed on a few drops of the sweet scented water. It took years to empty the bottle. Once the cologne was gone, I kept the bottle on my dresser because I loved the figurine, and the scent of the roses lingered in it. Now my granddaughter has it. She's sixteen.

A couple of years ago for my birthday, my daughter bought me some rose water, telling me, "This reminds me of you because you always smelled like this when I was growing up." It swept me back across decades in an instant. Until that moment, I'd had no idea she associated that scent with her childhood.  I used the rose water she gave me, though it didn't smell quite as sweet as the original cologne, and of course it was lacking the nostalgia of that lovely Avon bottle.

Then yesterday, for our birthday—because my daughter was born on my nineteenth birthday, still the best birthday I've ever had—she handed me a small gift bag. In it, wrapped ever so carefully, was a very familiar figure. Somehow, she and my granddaughter had found (online, of course) a woman selling the Avon products her mother had collected for years. As I opened the package, tears in my eyes, my granddaughter reminded me that she still had that old "Dear Friends" bottle because, she said, it reminds her of her childhood. My son, sitting beside me, didn't remember the bottle at all, but when he smelled the cologne inside, his eyes widened. "I remember this!" he said. Of course. When scent is connected to memory it can snap us back to places and experiences from long, long ago.

And what a gift it is when someone can give us something so simple yet so powerful! I love this gift because it will remind me, every time I splash it on, of those long ago but much beloved days... and how far we've come as a family. And now, having seen my granddaughter, as beautiful as her mother, gently cradle a kitten in her arms, this simple glass and plastic container takes on an even deeper value.

So here's a birthday toast to nostalgia, to vintage memories and to making new memories as our family grows in ever widening circles of love.