Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remembering Grandma

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My father's mother, my Grandma (not to be confused with Nana, my maternal grandmother), was born in Hungary in 1907, living there until she emigrated to the US in the late 1920's. (There is a great deal more to that part of the story, but that is not a story for today. Today I prefer happier memories.)
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She worked most of her life as a seamstress, eventually even designing evening gowns for a famous pianist's partner to wear to his concerts. Grandma was very much a European - elegant and well-put together, with a clear sense of style (which sadly seems to have skipped my generation). Even when she lay sick in the hospital she made sure to have a nurse paint her nails in the bright red shade she favored.
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When I was growing up I always wanted to be taken to my grandparents' home when I was home sick from school because Grandma would make me grilled cheese sandwiches cut into triangles with the crusts removed, so much fancier than the simple rectangles I received at my own house. She had art books, and design magazines, and fancy needlepoints of sad-looking pierrots, and a button box for her grandchildren to play with that would be the envy of every child for miles around.
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She had a very formal living room which contained the world's most unbelievably over the top gilded coffee table - which she hated. She'd been talked into buying it by her wealthier and even more elegant sister-in-law and had hated it since the day it was brought home, but it would have offended her sister-in-law terribly to have gotten rid of it, so there it stayed. It was partially redeemed though by the four-compartment candy dish which she kept on the table - fully-stocked with everything from chocolates to peppermints.
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In my jewelry box, right next to a gold ring with her name on it which came with her from Hungary, is a small golden box which contains my most tactile memory of my grandmother. The box contains Fiamma, a solid perfume from Princess Marcella Borghese. When I open the box I inhale my grandmother's very essence, a scent that transports me back thirty years in time. This perfume hasn't been manufactured in decades, it can't even be found by google, but somehow this little tiny box has kept its scent strong all these years, giving me one last sensory link to a woman I loved dearly and lost much too early.
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My grandmother's perfume, what more perfect sentimental object could I have chosen to show you today...

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27 comments:

melissa qubti said...

hi...what a gorgeous box....i love your blog by the way and I LOVE your kitchen!!!!I too am in the process of choosing a new kitchen and it is a complete nightmare.I like so many different styles it hard to choose one thing.......

Robin said...

Thank you Melissa, I'm really enjoying yours too.

Re the kitchen, we found it came out a lot cheaper to go with a carpenter rather than with a manufacturer (i.e. Regba or others). Our guy was great, and his wife was the kitchen designer so that was taken care of in-house. E-mail me if you want details or have any questions.

Dr.John said...

What a special memory. One you can not only see but also smell.

Anndi said...

The sense memory. It's powerful. It brings us back to happy times.

I will forever associate the smell of lilies of the valley with a teacher I simply adored. When she huged me (back when teachers were allowed to hug children and did so without fear of nastiness) I always felt safe and loved.

Thank you for sharing your grandmother with us.

Raven said...

What a beautiful tribute to someone you clearly loved. She sounds like she was wonderful. Smell is such a powerful memory trigger, I think. Borghese brings back memories for me. I've never been big on make-up or cosmetics but in the 1970s Bloomingdales in NYC had a sale of Countess Borghese's night cream. Best stuff ever. I nursed that little jar for almost a year.

Carletta said...

What a beautiful little box!
I think scents always take us back. It's wonderful to have this one of your Grandma.
Lovely post.

Robert said...

What a powerful post here today. "Inhaling her very essence" is quite moving. It's amazing how things, although mere objects with little meaning on their own, have the power to transport us in memory, feeling, and emotion. I appreciate you sharing this very much.

Dawn on MDI said...

my god. beautiful. just beautiful. Thank you.

Janet said...

What a beautiful story about her ... and you!

Funny...my Dad's mom was Grandma to me, and my Mom's was Nana, too.

The perfume I remember my Grandmother wearing was Evening In Paris :-)

Phyllis Sommer said...

that's simply beautiful. thanks, robin, for sharing it!

Domestic Spaz said...

My Grandmother used to wear Coty Air Spun Face Powder. She kept that little round tub of it on her dressing table for as long as I can remember.

After she passed away I went and bought some just to smell her again. I don't wear it, but occasionally I do open the box and just smell her and it's wonderful.

You've got me crying now. :) Thanks for that.

mother in israel said...

Loved this post.

anymommy said...

What a beautiful memory. I loved reading this post.

Jill said...

Beautiful post, beautiful box, amazing keepsake!

June said...

We so often forget that there are five senses to stir memories...how wonderful to have something like this!

~Virginia~ said...

i remember when i first heard that our sense of smell triggers the most memories--it's soooo true. i'm glad you have this to remember her by and make her feel a little bit closer.

Bazza said...

That little box is beautiful, it's gorgeous and what a fantastic story.

Terri said...

What a beautiful keepsake Robin. Very touching.

david mcmahon said...

I never knew my grandparents - so this was very special for me.

Gill - That British Woman said...

what a super box and a great memory........I did a post on my blog about my grandparents clock which they got on their wedding day, and which I now have. Those memories are precious and no one can take them away from us.

Great post and a great blog.

Gill in Canada

Enzie at World Market Portraits said...

What a beautiful little treasure to remember your grandmother with.

quilly said...

Sorry I am late. I love your kitchen. That window is outstanding -- so is your cupboard and counter space.

I also like your grandmother's little box. My Gram had a perfume box, too, but her's was round and had an enameled rose top.

ilanadavita said...

Nice little box with a nice story; a great tribute to an elegant grandma.

RiverPoet said...

That is a terrific memory. You're very lucky to have that remainder of her. I have a scarf that belonged to my mother, who always wore White Diamonds. It still carries her scent - faintly - almost 3 years later. I could refresh it with a new bottle of perfume, but would it be the same?

Found you through David...Peace - D

dianne - bunny trails said...

Oh my goodness. What a beautiful story and memory. I believe scent has a stronger memory trigger than anything else. I know that I have some very distinct memories related to scents.

Such a lovely treasure. :D

mommaof4wife2r said...

so wonderful...and what a memory to keep!

csquaredplus3 said...

Lovely post. I just returned from a visit with my grandmother and was catching up on my Reader "stuff". Clicked on you after reading Merlot Mom.

Smells have the power to stir vivid memories for me. What a gift you have in your grandmother's perfume.

I'm Chris, just thought I'd say hello.