Rummaging through Grandma’s attic, Angie turns the crystal bottle in her hand. The bottle is small, and she marvels at the beautiful craftsmanship of the glass. It catches the dim electric light of the lone bulb hanging from the ceiling and shoots it out in diamond rays that twist and wind around her hand. She searches for a name, but finds none.
Angie considers opening the bottle and letting out its fragrance. She giggles to herself as she imagines a genie oozing out in a puff of white smoke and granting her three wishes.
“Nonsense,” she chides herself, “It’s only perfume, which may be rotten now.”
Angie glances around at the bric-à-brac left behind by her centenarian grandmother and wonders if she ever used the fragrance. Grandma always said that perfume was heaven’s manna, and she felt naked without it. Angie would shrug her shoulders and resume playing with her dolls.
Now, the bottle entices and intrigues her; she strokes it with her thumb, and her cheeks color at the thought of Prince Charming leaning in… She shakes the image away and remembers Grandma’s smiling eyes and the swirl of peaches and roses that always trailed behind her.
“Mom!” Angie calls as she steps out of the attic, perfume bottle in hand.
“Is this Grandma’s perfume? The one she was always talking about?”
“No, I keep her bottle on my dresser. Where did you find this?”
“In the attic. In the drawer of an old dressing table. It’s beautiful too, I wonder if Dad can fix it for my room.”
“We’ll see,” Mom muses, “you know, this was Grandma’s childhood home. Maybe it belonged to your great-grandmother.”
Angie gazes at the lovely bottle with enchanted eyes, and Mom notices for the first time that her daughter is leaving childhood behind her. She was searching the attic for games and toys, and found this…
“I wonder what it smells like,” Angie says.
“I wonder if there’s any perfume left in the bottle,” Mom replies, “there’s only one way to find out.”
Mom rips a piece of paper out of a notepad, “You spritz some on here and then inhale the scent.”
Angie sprays the paper and sniffs.
“Now describe the aroma to me,” Mom says.
“It’s fresh,” Angie closes her eyes, “and smells like Earl Grey tea.”
“That’s the bergamot,” Mom says, “and those are the head notes.”
“Yes, it’s the first impression of a perfume, the scents that dissipate the quickest. What else?”
“Now it’s morphing into something flowery. I can’t quite place it, but it grows in Grandma’s garden.”
Mom nods, “I detect Jasmine and gardenia, and those are the heart notes.”
“The bouquet that lingers after the head notes have faded. In a little while, on the dry-down, you’ll get a sense of the base notes. Those are the heavy aromas that stay the longest on the skin.”
“You mean like how you smell of wood and something powdery when you come home?”
Mom nods and smiles as unseen tears spring to her eyes.
“How do you know all this?” Angie asks.
“Grandma taught me when I was your age,” Mom answers, “and her mother taught her when she was ready to learn.”
Angie gazes into Mom’s smiling eyes.
“Now,” Mom continues, “spritz some on your wrist and tell me what happens. Does it change? Do you like it more? Or less? Perfumes are unique to people. The same fragrance can be heavenly on you, but infernal on me, and vice versa.”
Angie sprays her wrist, and the perfume expands and envelops her in a blissful whirlwind of flowers and thunderstorms and a crackling hearth. It brings her to the brink of something wonderful, as if the perfume was opening a mysterious door and leading her towards it.
“You know,” Angie hesitates, a little embarrassed, “for a moment, I hoped a genie would come out of the bottle. Isn’t that silly?”
“No,” Mom winks, “Magic always floats out of perfume bottles.”