The inside of this small oval basket of woven rush is filled with very old potpourri, atop which rests a small bottle of peach-scented oil. The basket, which once belonged to my mother, is stashed behind some framed photographs on a dresser in the spare bedroom of my home.
It used to sit on an end table in her living room. Every once in a while she would enliven the potpourri with the oil, or add a few drops to her vacuum cleaner bag to freshen the house. She used it in moderation, and it is a light, pleasant scent, which for years my children and I have associated with her clean, bright home and our happy and loving visits with her. It is one of the items I retrieved when she passed away.
During those moments when I am especially missing her, or sometimes when I just feel a Mom Fix is necessary, I will go into the room, open the top of the basket and inhale this scent, which brings me close to her. When the smell of peaches begins to wane over time, I refresh it, and thus have been able to keep my Mommy-visit going for many years. Olfactory memories can elicit powerful, vivid connections. This ritual might bring a smile or tears, depending on my mood or what is going on in my life at the moment. It is unpredictable and sometimes painful, but always worth it.
A number of days ago I was in the room, spied the basket, instantly missed her and decided to indulge. It was apparent the potpourri was losing it’s scent, and realizing it was time to refresh, I opened the bottle top and shook some out, totally forgetting that it did not have one of those dropper tops that essential oil bottles often have. Subsequently, more than half of the remaining peach-scented oil dumped out into the basket. And onto the rug, the dresser, the floor, my slippers.
I was beyond dismayed, not because of the overdose of concentrated peach (which at that amount is overwhelming, and will be for quite a while), but because I had just lost a large piece of original, Mom-related memory that should have been made to last for many more years. In addition to whatever landed on the rug, it also was all over my hands and did not fade after vigorous washing. Whatever was spilled on my slippers got tracked around the house. As a matter of fact, it transferred onto the towels and into the laundry too. Because it was essentially invisible, the spread of the peach oil could only be followed by smelling it instead of seeing it. The way it spread about, I was reminded of the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat In The Hat Comes Back, where a pink bathtub ring left by the cat keeps spreading from one point to another until everything, including the snow outside, becomes one big pink spot. I wanted to laugh. I wanted to cry.
There is still a little bit of oil left in the bottle. I will have to take better care to make it last, this small but potent remnant of my mother. Eventually the scent will fade, the metaphoric pink snow throughout the house will be gone. But I think I might need something like Little Cat Z to remove his hat and release some Voom to clean up my heart.