It’s really amazing how a scent can send you into another world and another time and place. Popcorn, for instance, can take me back a few decades to the movie, Bambi, where I begged my mom for a bag of it even though we were going out for dinner afterwards. Like most moms, she did not want me to spoil dinner but gave into my request. However, what I spoiled most were my red peddle-pushers that had a big grease spot at my crotch from the butter seeping through the bag as I held the popcorn on my lap. What an embarrassment as we left the theater! And every single time I smell popcorn, my mind wanders back to that greasy mess. Despite it, I still adore butter on everything!
The Christmas season is especially loaded with memorable scents like pine, cinnamon, peppermint, and apple pie. Yet, I have to admit there are two scents that probably no one except me feels a fondness for at Christmas and that is Noxzema Cold Cream and Old Spice Shaving Cream.
Here’s the story. When my grandparents each passed away, I had a friend make stuffed teddy bears for each member of the family out of Nana and Papa’s respective bathrobes and pajamas. Papa’s is made from his red plaid bathrobe that he wore all the time and Nana’s is from her favorite pink and blue rose PJ’s. For years later, I could pick up each bear and with one quick sniff I was transformed to a time when I was loved and nurtured by the world’s greatest grandparents. After all, my mom and I lived with her parents until she remarried, so Nana and Papa were second parents to me. Papa would always tell Nana that he felt like he was sleeping with a “medicated ghost” as she piled the thick white layer of Noxzema on her face nightly. Papa would tease her and occasionally call her “Casper,” yet well into her late eighties, Nana maintained a gorgeous complexion thanks to Noxzema.
No one loved the holidays like Nana, and she passed that passion, or should I say obsession, unto all of us. Every single nook and cranny had a decoration. Even the shelf on top of the radiator was covered with angel hair mimicking snow and adorned with cardboard characters and mini houses and trees resembling a Norman Rockwell painting. Most years, we had a live Frasier Fir, but one year, Nana got wild and crazy and bought a Sears silver tree with a lighted color wheel that could change the color of the tree from silver to green, to red and blue in a matter of seconds. Papa thought she had lost her mind, but she told him she was saving money since we could use it year after year. Then she emphasized that it was also less of a fire hazard than a real tree and we would leave it up until mid-January, and we surely did!
My two precious bears come out of the attic before Thanksgiving every single year with all our other beautiful Christmas decorations. They take center stage beneath our artificial green tree, which is sadly necessary since I am allergic to the mold that forms on the trunk of a real tree. I know it may sound crazy, yet give me credit for admitting it, I douse each bear with the proper scent moments after they come out of hiding so that when I pick them up and hug them each morning during the holiday season, I am taken back to a magical time of my life filled with love. Sometimes I cry. Then I always feel guilty wrapping them up and storing them away after the holidays.
This year will be extra poignant, as the bears will have two siblings join them. Sadly, my mom is now in a memory care unit and we will have her two bears to add to the menagerie. Oh yes, we will certainly decorate mom’s nursing home room to the hilt for Christmas as we do for all holidays, but I’m afraid to put her bears on her bed as other residents like to “adopt” trinkets and things from neighboring residents and we may never see her bears again. They are too precious to lose, and you can be sure as they make their debut, together with my two, they will get refreshed with my favorite scents of Christmas.