(Memory of the Garden at Etten. Van Gogh, 1888.)
Perfumer André Fraysse
My mother only wore perfume occasionally. Out to dinner, to an event of some sort, to a family gathering she wore Lanvin’s Arpege. To a wedding or Something Special, she wore the Jean Patou Joy that her brother had brought her from Paris immediately after WW II. She still had it in the 2000s. That’s how infrequently she wore it.
God, that Joy was lovely. Put me on the couch, get me talking and you’ll probably find that that’s where the perfume fascination started. But it was the Arpège that suited my mother. It was simple, didn’t require any effort or reaching. If the Patou was named Joy, the Lanvin could have been called Contentment.
As my mother’s dementia advanced and she lost touch with her surroundings, I bought her a bottle of Joy hoping it would prompt a reaction. Or that she’d simply enjoy it. I was disappointed when it didn’t actually elicit any response at all from her. But then again, perfume is my thing. It was never hers. What I’ve done since is to buy an ounce of Vintage Arpege extrait. Every now and again I’ll put it on, put my feet up, sniff my wrists and remember this remarkable woman.