I have been thinking a lot about the power of scent for the past couple of days. Sometime last week, my partner and I indulged a little by ordering a new perfume to use together, as well as making an order at Lush for a refill of our beloved body wash. There are some smells that are so unique to a person that they’re forever engraved in our memory. Or vice versa, where a memory is intertwined with a very specific smell (just ask Proust about his precious madeleines).
For me, it is sandalwood.
One of the very first memories I have of this scent comes from one of the rare times when my mother would let me open her one of the drawers of her bedside table. I remember being greeted by this smoky scent of incense, flowers and something milky and so I began to sniff everywhere, like a tiny Labrador, for its source. In the end I found out that the smell came from two things: a tiny replica of a coffin kept in a delicate brocade box and a small bag of sandalwood chips.
The tiny replica of a coffin was something that my grandfather gave to my mother before he passed away for good luck and to remind my mother that death is always around the corner. I remember holding both of these objects close to me and breathing in as deeply as I could while closing my eyes as if to take a mental picture of this very moment. And from that moment on, this smell became imprinted in my head and I began to recognise it for what it was on my mother. It was then that I realised that I have always smelled this particular scent on my mother but it wasn’t until that very moment that day that I recognised it as sandalwood. It turns out that my mother has always lined her drawers with multiple bars of unopened Bee and Flower’s sandalwood soap to perfume her clothes. This is a habit she has kept to this very day. It’s all fun and games until moving day when it becomes your job to recuperate all the bars of soap littered in her drawers. And yes, she remembers how many bars of soap there’s meant to be, so you had better get every single one of them.
When I started living abroad, I specifically asked my mother to send me a box of them so that I, too, could line my drawers with them. To be fair, that’s one of the reasons, but the other is the simple fact that I wanted to feel closer to her. To this day, a brief whiff of sandalwood brings me back home and into her arms.
Checklist for the day:
- Head and shoulders Classic Shampoo