After the Fact: The sweet smell of success


“Blue Waltz” was a high dollar perfume, displayed in a heart-shaped bottle and sold in fine stores everywhere. Woolworth sold the small bottles for 25 cents. And a special edition came in a tiny “lamp” with different colors of mantle to suit the Christmas season.  It smelled like the vanilla my grandma always had on hand for baking. So it was natural that my sister Micki and I would choose this particular scent to give at Christmas. As I may have mentioned before, this stuff had the half-life of a gnat. After grandma passed, we found several of the lamp-shaped bottles, unopened, but dry as a bone. She treasured each and every one. If you’ve a yen for a smell of the “good old days,” Vermont Country Store features Blue Waltz perfume in their catalog, but it’s a lot more than 25 cents.

Mostly, I think I smelled like whatever shampoo was in the bathroom shower. “Halo” was mom’s favorite for a long while and I can still sing the advertising jingle, “Halo, everybody, Halo! Halo is the shampoo that glorifies your hair so Halo, everybody, Halo!”  By the time I enrolled at Adams State, I was a tad more discriminating and had moved up to Avon. I can’t remember the name of the cologne but it still smelled like cooking vanilla to me. When Avon moved on, so did I. With short-lived ventures into other scents, I settled on “Shalimar.” It’s a ton more expensive now than when I first discovered it, but my sister gave me a bottle for my birthday. She gave me another for Christmas. For several years. I have a lifetime supply of “Shalimar”.  It smells like cooking vanilla. Or sugar cookies.

If ever I change from “Shalimar,” it will be because I found a perfume that smells like wet sawdust. It’s my very favorite smell from the playground at the end of our street in my home town, back when I was in elementary school. I might be enthusiastic about a cologne that smells like crayons. Baxter Black, cowboy poet and former veterinarian, says he likes a woman who smells like barbecue sauce.   

Have you ever stopped to think how many good or bad memories are triggered by something you smell? Some folks are taken back to Sunday dinner, family gathered around the dining room table when they smell bread baking.  Even if it’s only Pillsbury dinner rolls from a pop-up container. I’d read somewhere that, when you’re trying to sell your house, “nothin’ spells lovin’ like something from the oven.” Prospective purchasers feel warm and cozy when they smell something baking in the kitchen. In my case, I feel right at home if someone’s burned the toast.

In the same way, what we hear takes us back to times we’d like to forget or moments we’ll never forget, like the ringing of a school bell or maybe even the pealing of Big Ben. Back home, a siren was blown at 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It signaled the end of the workday for employees attached to the national laboratory. It also served as an air raid siren on the only two occasions that a practice evacuation of the entire community took place. Leaving town in a traffic jam that tied up all possible egress for longer than the 5 o’clock rush would have been as effective as the “bomb drills” conducted in the schools where we climbed under our desks and covered our heads with our crossed arms. Still, when I hear a siren, I look at my watch. A guy named Pavlov had this all figured out before I did which goes to show we may not be more sophisticated than a dog. For sure, I know dogs who are more loyal, more loving and generally better company than some of the people I’ve met. And pigs who are cleaner.

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