The Fragrance of Chanel

The Fragrance of Chanel

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

The Fragrance of Chanel

Time is the only comforter for the loss of a mother.

Shane Welsh Carlyle

Today my mother came to visit, totally unannounced. It was during the morning hours as a winter’s sunlight forced its brilliance through the bathroom blinds and on to the Hessian carpet beneath my bare feet. Nail polish bottles crowded the window ledge and a curling iron, slowly cooling down, reclined on a nearby train case. One by one I replaced the eye shadow, blush, mascara and lipstick back into a zippered makeup bag, alternately checking in the mirror to see if I had left anything undone. As a finishing touch, I reached for the cologne.

Near the sink lay a bone china dish, full of cologne samples from a bridal show. One finger-search through the dish and there I stood, surprised to find myself holding a tiny glass vial of Eau de Parfum in the palm of my hand, distinguishably labeled Chanel.

Holding the sample over the sink, I cautiously removed the tiny black stopper and let the sweet-scented Chanel run over my fingertips and onto my neck. Working quickly, I splashed a small amount on my wrists and massaged them together, releasing a fragrance that quickly filled the sunlit bathroom.

It was at this precise moment that my mother entered the room. It wasn’t that she had knocked, or even visibly appeared, but she was definitely there . . . in the room with me. I couldn’t see her . . . nor could I reach out and touch her . . . but I could close my eyes and smell her . . . and it had been so long . . . so very, very long.

As suddenly as the burst of Chanel filled the room, a picture of Mama came to mind, a private moment that never made it into our family album. It was her ritual on Sunday mornings. First she bathed, followed by a generous dusting of bath powder. Next she put on her hand-washed bra, panties and slip, followed by a skin-tight girdle with four rubber clasps. Finally, she took out her nylon stockings, neatly stored in the original cardboard box, and held them up to the window light in search of runners. Not until she laid out her shoes, however, did she make a decision between her two favorite shades of nylons—Barely Black and Barely There. She was determined never to put on her dress (only to get it wrinkled) until it was time to walk out the door, which left her no option but to complete the essentials and wait. And my mother waited in elegance. Her stockings were the best she could afford—Hanes. Her slips and bras were top-ofthe-line—Vanity Fair. Her shoes? Nothing but Aeigner. Her choice of perfume? Chanel No. 5.

I watched through the mirror as she applied her makeup, standing there in her high heels and underwear, a fan oscillating on the floor. One by one she replaced the face powder, rouge and lipstick back into the middle drawer, alternately checking in the mirror to see if she had left anything undone. As a finishing touch, she reached for the cologne.

Holding the bottle in her hands, she removed the black cap and let the sweet-scented Chanel run over her fingers and onto her neck. Working quickly, she splashed a small amount on her wrists and massaged them together, releasing a fragrance that quickly filled her sunlit bedroom.

I thought of her often throughout the day . . . heard her laughter, felt her near me. I breathed in the essence on my wrists and she was there . . . in the room beside me. And although she hadn’t knocked, nor could I reach out and touch her . . . I could close my eyes and smell her . . . and it had been so long . . . so very, very long.

Today my mother came to visit . . . totally unannounced . . . in the fragrance of Chanel.

Charlotte A. Lanham

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