Fragrant ghosts of Christmases past

Nikki ParkinsonBeauty 10 Comments

The year is 1976.   My brothers and I are spending our annual holiday with mum at the Gold Coast.  The air is thick with salt, sweat and pre-Christmas excitement. This is a Gold Coast before the very glam arrival of Pacific Fair.  The only shops at Broadbeach were on a strip beachside of the highway.  I remember a hot chook shop and a chemist. 

The chook shop is where we pick up our Christmas lunch; the chemist is where we take our pocket money to shop for mum’s pressie.  It is always a bottle of 4711 Eau de Cologne.  This now-200-year-old fragrance is mum’s scent of choice.  To my nine-year-old self, it is mum.  It represents summer holidays in a bottle, long, long before I understand what a base, middle and top note are all about.

4711 Eau de Cologne: mum's signature fragrance

Fast-forward three years and for the first time in many years we are not sweating it out in a Queensland summer.  We are in England, embracing a northern hemisphere Christmas with my dad, my step-mum and our English rellies.  My tanned legs are encased in stockings and boots and my Aunty Kathryn has taken me under her bargain shopping wing, introducing me to the delights of a Christmas fragrance coffret.  So beautiful.  So much value.  All in one box.

On that cold December 25 morning, I open up my presents, only to squeal in delight at the huge coffret of Revlon Charlie products.  I feel so grown up.  I AM a Charlie woman.  All fresh but with a little base of spice.  Well, I would be, if I actually use the cologne spray and body lotion.  I never want them to run out, so I keep them carefully in their box.  As you do when you are 12 and don’t know if or when you’ll ever again receive a gift so beautiful.

Revlon Charlie ... I so wanted to be a Charlie girl ... when I was 12

MY fragrance story has begun.

Seven Christmases later.  I’m once again in England.  This time on my own.  Aunty Kathryn still knows a thing or two about shopping and I find myself on the receiving end of a bottle of Nini Ricci L’Air du Temps.  It is the most beautiful bottle I’ve ever seen.  I now understand the power of the perfume bottle.  I am entranced by the frosted doves sitting atop the swirls of glass.  And again, I’ve chosen a fragrance that is part floral, part spice.  Funny that.

Nina Ricci L'Air Du Temps ... you had me at the bottle

In the late 1980s, fashion is all about power.  I am no longer a poor student; just a poor journalist.  And my step-mum opens my mind (and my shoulder-padded dress “sense”) to the in-your-face excitement of YSL’s stable of fragrances. YSL Paris is the “It” fragrance and boy do I EMRACE it.  To say the original Paris is a heady mix of florals, woods and greens is THE understatement of a very opulent decade.  It is perhaps only eclipsed by Christian Dior’s Poison for its ability to enter a room before I did.

YSL Paris ... the original entered a room before me and my shoulder pads did

In the 1990s, I kind of get stuck.  I lose my fragrance mojo.  I still have one foot in the YSL camp – with Opium – a thick wallop of an oriental – but find it a little too much for an everyday scent.  I flirt with Carachel’s Anais Anais, more feminine, yes, but still with those woody and amber undertones that I seem unwittingly drawn to.  (I am also home with with small babies and am lucky to get out of my pjs each day, let along remember to spritz on something a little nice so that may have something to do with it.)

Anais Anais Cacharel ... with small babies I was lucky to get dressed, let along remember to spray on a little fragrance

In 2002, I find that mojo again, and start a long-standing love affair with Jean Paul Gaultier Classique.  I am newly engaged (the second time around) and floating in this musky floriental love bubble.  JPG brings out my inner Madonna(I still keep an empty limited edition metallic bustier bottle in my fragrance “wardrobe”).  This is seriously the first fragrance I use every day.  That I make my own.  That I am not afraid to use until the bottle is empty.

Jean Paul Gaultier Classique ... you had me floating along in a fragrant love bubble

Last Christmas, fragrance love strikes again.  I fall head over heels for Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere.  I’ve always danced around the edges of Chanel’s fragrance offerings but none had grabbed me enough that I wanted to commit further than a quick spray on my way past the Myer perfume counter.  Eau Premiere offers me a soft mix of neroli, roses, jasmine, ylang ylang, amber, vetiver, and sandalwood — a seemingly perfect combination – for me – and one unwittingly I’ve been moving towards since 1976.

Chanel No. 5 Eau Premiere ... a seemingly perfect scent for me

So, is this to be my signature scent?  For the moment yes.  But who knows what this Christmas will bring? Each year brings a new season of our life. New fragrant memories are created.  I’m open to change … wherever it may lead me. 

Are you?  Do you have one fragrance that embodies who you are?  Or are you hoping for a fragrant change this Christmas?

**This post is dedicated to my mum, Margaret Parkinson, who with my step-dad, was tragically killed 15 years ago on December 21, 1995.**

Comments 10

  1. So true. Like many of us I have a perfume for every stage – starting from when my German penpal sent me some 4711 as a little girl. Very nostalgic.

    My first ‘serious’ one was Obsession when I was 17. To me it smells of my last 2 years of school.

  2. Oh my goodness – I think that you just outlined most of my “fragrant” history too.

    I haven’t seen a bottle of 4711, but that image brought back so many nostalgic memories!

    Great post!


  3. This brings back so many memories! I LOVED 4711…I remember going into chemists and Kmart as a teenager and spraying it everywhere. I loved boys who smelt like Joop LOL.

    My husband and I love giving each other fragrances for Christmas. We started off with Jean Paul Gaultier and then moved on to D & G.

  4. Wow this brings back some memories. When I was in high school I worked in a pharmacy & we used to sell all those perfumes. I also remember Arpege, Lou Lou and Poison being popular. My Mum still likes Paris!

    My favs at the moment are Versace Bright Crystal and Issey Miyake.

  5. Hi Nikki .. wow, thanks for the tour of your fragrance world .. i smiled as i red each note . . 1987 was when i was first introduced to Georgio Armani .. on an aeroplane to NZ .. the gorjis flight attendant who was famous for her very huuuge faced round watch, i’ll never forget it & thort one day, ima gonna buy one of them for me .. uhhmm, she was wearing this beautiful fragrance that jus captivated me .. from that day/date .. i searched for this Georgio .. no one stocked it .. my girlfriend went to the States that next year and bought me my very own bottle .. WOW ..! I think it hit our stores in 1988ish ‘after’ i had my very own bottle .. lol.

    Chanel #5 would have to be one of my very fav’s of all time.. coz it’s Timeless. When my dad passed almost 20yrs ago, i was able to buy about 10 French parfums in Auckland duty free, LOL, i think the cashier thought she was in heaven when i rocked up … Poison, Tre’sor, Chanel #5, Christian le Croix .. & others .. all 100ml bottles .. my Hubby said i deserved every bottle of choice . . Dya know, TODAY i still have the tiny remnants of that very same bottle of Chanel #5 .. in my bathroom drawer .. my memories of my Dads’ celebration to me .. :). Today, there are copious new Designer labels of fragrance .. some very similar and kinda cross over .. yet .. with all them, my favourite izzz defff’ Chanel .. she’s every bit of Class, Style, Timeless peice that just lingers on and on when i wear her .. Happi Chrissy to You & Kester .. & your family .. xo

  6. Nikki, loved this one. I’m a perfume lover and enjoyed remembering my favorites including some that you have enjoyed. Shalimar & Champs-Élysées from Guerlain are my current choices.

  7. OMG! Thanks for bringing back these memories. Although I can’t remember your Mum’s fragrance, I do however remember the Nina Ricci, YSL Paris and Anais Anais by Cacharel! Why? They were MY Mum’s fragrances, and I used to “steal” a squirt or two when she wasn’t looking! LOL! But my own fragrance memory was the JPG Jeans range of perfumes! It was HOT when I was working in sales then. And then my taste started to change. Now, my favourite is Jadore, or anything that has a soft powdery scent. 🙂 Thanks for posting this!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.