The Sweet Smells of Summer… and Life
I was recently excited to discover Bath & Body Works was having its Buy Three, Get Two Free sale on fragrances. It was time to update my signature scents, since most of the perfumes I wear are too heavy for the summer.
Normally, I’d just go into the store to test out the different fragrances, but due to COVID-19, I’m not setting foot in a store for a while. (Besides, the pungent wall of candles in the front of the store gives me a terrible headache.) I was thrilled to find that, unlike the store, the website includes a lot of retired fragrances – including many I have not smelled since high school or college.
I immediately filled my cart with the sweet, flowery fragrances I’ve long forgotten about: Night Blooming Jasmine, Sun-Ripened Raspberry, Plumeria, Freesia, and Wild Honeysuckle. (I was also tempted to put Gardenia and Lilac in my cart, but reviews warned that they smell nothing like what I remember.)
As soon as I received the blue gingham box in the mail, I was flooded with Proustian memories:
- 1989: Jasmine takes me back to Christmas of that year. My cousin Adrienn gifted me a bottle of Jovan Night Blooming Jasmine, and at age seven, it made me feel so grown-up. The perfume is no longer made, and while Sunshine Spa Jasmine Oil is the closest I could find, it can easily become overpowering. The body spray reminds me of both, but is so light – like catching the smell of jasmine on the breeze.
- 1997-1998: Sun-Ripened Raspberry takes me back to ninth grade, a freshman at the Academy of St. Joseph, an all-girl’s school on Long Island. When I smell this, I remember crisp khaki skirts and soft polo shirts, the fragrance overtaken by Herbal Essence mousse and hair spray the days I wore my hair curly.
- 1997-1998: Plumeria and Freesia were two of my go-to summer fragrances that year, alternating with Freesia and Calgon Morning Glory and Herbal Meadows sprays. They take me back to drama camp, sleepovers, attending concerts at Jones Beach, working in a health food store, teaching Vacation Bible School, and summer evening walks down Islip’s Main Street.
- 2001-2005: Wild Honeysuckle was my favorite throughout college at Fordham when I wasn’t wearing Michael Kors Michael, the first “adult” perfume I bought and still treasure to this day. Honeysuckle reminds me of spring and summer, traipsing around campus in Old Navy flip-flops and floral skirts.
There are other distinct fragrances that immediately take me back to certain times in my life:
- 1987: Mary Chess perfumes lined my mother’s bathroom vanity, and I remember opening each and taking in their flowery scents. Two stood out to me: Rose and Yram. If I want to jog those memories, all I have to do is sniff my bottle of The Body Shop’s British Rose Eau de Toilette.
- 1988: It’s a smell I’ll never forget, but I have not experienced since: the bottle of perfume that came with Perfume Pretty Barbie. Online sources say that Gucci Guilty smells just like it. It’s one of the best smells I can recall without having experienced it in three decades.
- 1995-1997: My friend Annmarie gifted me Gap Heaven for my 13th birthday. I wore Heaven religiously through junior high until I ran out, then I couldn’t afford a new bottle on my babysitting salary. Two years ago, I discovered you could buy it on Amazon, and it smelled exactly how I remembered: of crushes, Seventeen magazine, school dances, Z-100, and listening to Amy Grant’s House of Love on my Walkman. (For the full junior high experience, I recommend pairing it with Herbal Essences shampoo and Dr. Pepper Lip Smackers.) I still love a spritz on certain days.
- 1999: The summer of Bath and Body Works Gardenia and Lilac. I haven’t been able to find a comparable gardenia fragrance, but Pacifica Lilac is a perfect substitute. They remind me of the Lilith Fair, nights at the coffee shop with my best friends, and chatting on AOL.
- 2000: No fragrance came close to Calgon’s Hawaiian Ginger. I spent the summer in Arizona with my cousin Adrienn, and she was in the middle of getting her house ready to sell. We cooked fish the night before a showing, and the house reeked. I suggested we burn a pine cone to give the house a more pine-like smell, like we often did in our fireplace in New York. The house then smelled like fish and burnt pine cone. I thought spraying the house with my Hawaiian Ginger would mask it, but it didn’t. It smelled like fish, burnt pine cone, and Hawaiian Ginger. The smell always takes me back to that stifling (and stinky) summer.
- 2001 – Today: The year I fell in love with Michael by Michael Kors. I remember smelling it in Glamour and was smitten, saving all my Saturday night babysitting money to buy a bottle. I constantly received compliments whenever I wore it. Michael Kors’ perfumes became my all-time favorites, including Very Hollywood, Bermuda, and Wanderlust. Each one make me feel amazing and remind me of the beautiful transition from becoming a teenager to an adult.
- 2003: I brought a bottle of Victoria’s Secret Tropical Nectar, since discontinued, on my vacation to Prince Edward Island. The will always take me back to the breathtaking red sands and rolling green hills. The only perfume that came remotely close was Escada Taj Sunset, but the sample I received from Sephora didn’t last long on my pulse points.
- 2012: I was sent Marc Jacobs Dot to test and review on my blog. At first, it didn’t strike me as a perfume I’d love, given I tend to like flowery perfumes over fruity ones. But it was so light and fun-loving, and reminds me of getting married, buying a house, and starting my own business in the following years. It became a mainstay on my perfume tray.