Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Me, My Mom, and a Car Full of Caramel Cake and Perfume

 Better people than I can take a 15 hour road trip with their mothers and live not to complain about it. Tomorrow I leave for Denver with mine, to visit my sister, who's just had her second hip replaced. She's only 45. Apparently there were problems with the sockets - or something. I'm sure I'll get a more informed report once we arrive. Until then, I can only hope my mom brings earphones. I'm not sure we'd avoid arguments if she weren't the only one listening to conservative talk radio. I'm trying to think about this as an adventure.

The last time I visited my mom I convinced her to give me her almost full bottle of Oscar de la Renta. I remember it from my childhood, and it's well preserved. 100 ml. She doesn't seem to have used it much. She kept it because she keeps everything (except, strangely, the bottle of Youth Dew I remember always sitting on her bureau; that, she can't find) and because, she said, she likes the design of the bottle.

I've given my mom several perfumes over the last several years (vintage Chanel No.19, Fath de Fath, Joy EDT, Tableau de Parfums Miriam). She keeps them all in a little decorative trunk I once gave her for Mother's Day. As far as I can tell, they're all unused, though she did spray on some Miriam that last trip. She got into the car smelling of it, and off we drove to Wal-Mart. So I felt okay taking the Oscar, especially as it reminds me of her in ways I want to be reminded. Otherwise it would continue to sit in the dark, well preserved and well wasted.

Taking a ten day trip - especially on the road - is a nerve wracking prospect for me, and not just because I'm taking it with my mother. Getting things out of the way is process enough. Making sure I won't be stuck in Denver without something I need and can't get there stymies my faculties to such an extent that I've ended up more than once the past few days sitting on the couch staring at the coffee table and all the remotes lined up there. Even harder: figuring out how many perfumes I can get away with bringing.

My mom said bring whatever I like. My sister wants a caramel cake so we're packing that - on ice. She wanted two (one for each hip?) but I'm not the best brother in the world and will be disappointing her on her sickbed. I'll be bringing a scanner which is the size of an early model cell phone (two stacked phone books in size) and every important document I own, so that I can work while I'm there and in case, I guess, something I can't imagine comes up, like a fire in Peoria, and the fire department calls me and asks when I was last there and did I have anything to do with it, and can I prove it. I'd love to tell you that I have every document I could possibly need for any given issue scanned already, but more likely these documents are spread across three different email accounts and ten different files or folders. This, among other things, is why I don't generally like to leave town.

A friend and I were talking about OCD and ADHD recently. I can't remember why. She knows me well, this friend, and I think I know myself pretty well too, so I was surprised when she said she thought I have a little of one or the other going on myself. I thought of this again recently when another friend interviewed me for a blog she's starting (she's interviewing people she knows and wants to learn more about, she says, so I talked her ear off for two hours, telling her, I'm sure, more than she wanted to know) and later asked me to list my top ten favorite perfumes to accompany the post.

I came up with ten, which then metastasized into twenty. That became fifty. And even at fifty I was deliberating, second guessing myself. If this was a desert island, and I only had these ten (or fifty), well...what kind of desert island exactly are we talking about? What's the weather like there? Pirates? Salt water? Windy, cold, hot and humid? I started to think there might be some truth in my friend's armchair diagnosis.

Every day I pack a bag of perfume for whatever the day might bring. But I know I'm going home at some point, or points unknown, so the pressure is minimal. Ten days in Denver is some version of a desert island, and I can't make up my mind. At some point I started to think that my friend might be right but, more than that, my love of perfume (something I only occasionally, and jokingly refer to as an addiction) is a clear manifestation of a disordered mind.


Susan said...

I somehow manage to get away with packing only a few perfumes on trips, because I convince myself that I'll then associate one or two nice scents with the trip.

Funny story about Oscar: the original Oscar de la Renta was my first real perfume! (OK, I had a mini of Cover Girl Navy prior to that.) I bought it with my OWN DAMN MONEY in high school. Big deal because my mom hated perfume. This was probably 1998 or 1999, so I was a bit of a weirdo in wearing Oscar at age 15 in the late 90s. It was my only perfume for years. Love the stuff, although it's been changed since the late 90s. In fact, the bottle I have now, which was probably obtained in 2003ish, smells different from what's in stores now I think.

The hilarious part about the Oscar was that I had originally smelled some summer fruity floral flanker of it, and saved my pennies to buy it... then when I went to Belk's after I got my Christmas money, the flanker was sold out, and I bought regular Oscar not knowing it was something different. At first I was shocked, but pretty soon I learned to love original Oscar.

Brian said...

I admit, Susan, that I already owned two small bottles of Oscar, but they smell different from each other and neither smells exactly like my mom's, and my mom's is the only bottle whose provenance I can verify.

It has been changed. The current version I haven't smelled I don't think. I think I have some from the early or mid 2000s and some from the nineties. The nineties version is closer to my mom's but a lot more...fecal? And the other version is a lot sharper, the way my newer Jean Louis Scherrer and Giorgio are.

I wish I could do the only two bottle thing but in true OCD style I determine that there are too many what if situations where one or two might not be enough - or the suddenly wrong choice.

Clearly I need help.

Kathryn said...

I’m smiling with rueful recognition at this post, although I’m on the other side of the generational divide. I recently weathered a trip with my children who are in their 20s and 30s to the city where we all once lived. We rented an apartment for our stay and all the stuff I brought with me was the subject of much mockery. “Oh, no. Can you believe it? She actually brought a tea pot!’ Snark didn’t stop them from drinking the tea I made or eating every last crumb of my homemade chocolate almond torte. Your sister is right: cake helps.

Perfume helps, too. My children are oddly more conservative than I am, although still within the realm of what I consider reason. Letting myself waft away in contemplation of whatever perfume I was wearing was much more enjoyable than taking them to task for their inexplicably regressive politics. It seems pointless to engage. I can only hope that life will knock some sense into them.

For much of the time we did manage to enjoy ourselves. I think all the stuff I brought helped, as my darling daughter finally conceded. “You don’t know how to pack light, Mom, but you do know how to make things comfortable.” Despite some evidence to support the theory, I decline to entertain the notion of my incipient geriatric OCD. I’m happier with the idea that I’ve just come to appreciate the immense wisdom of the old scouting motto: “Be prepared.”

And to that end, Brian, I hope that you are aware that although Peoria may not be burning, there are a lot of wildfires now raging along the Front Range. There may be a lot of smoke in the air when your reach Denver.

Brian said...

Kathryn, I love your story. This morning I helped my mom pack her car, and the whole time I was thinking, REALLY? Two portable fans? A flat of drinking water? A massive igloo? Disposable face masks??

Now I know there are fires up there and I think maybe she's a little smarter than I am. But before I knew that I texted my sister: "god help me."

Brian said...

This, btw, from the guy who packed a scanner.

queen_cupcake said...

Brian, your last comment made me laugh! Good luck and stay safe on your trip. One day you will treasure your memories of time spent with your mother.

Brian said...

Why can't we treasure them when they're happening, queen? What's our problem? Funny thing is, my mom gets more phone calls than I do. Who knew. Should I be jealous??

queen_cupcake said...

I know. It is easy to get annoyed with family. I think it is sometimes merely a (not very good) habit I have. Because I know them so well, I react to their behaviors and attitudes much more quickly than I would for a mere acquaintance or a stranger. My younger sister and my mother, for example, sure know where my buttons and how to hit them, and when they were together, oh Lord, they would tag-team me. Now my mom is in decline and cannot properly express her thoughts. How I would love to be the object of just one more of her acid--but come to think of it, always witty--remarks.

LOL at the phone calls! Yes, my younger sister (who I and my older sister have deemed an emotional train wreck) has 10 times the number of friends that I do. It makes me wonder: what is wrong with me?.

Everyone has their own set of strengths--and weaknesses, in an amazing variety of combinations! It makes people interesting, don't you think?


Brian said...

Yes, it makes them interesting. And sometimes annoying. I jest!

My mom has been on the phone the whole time. I feel like I'm riding with a teenager--only a teenager wouldn't be so confused by her gps.

queen_cupcake said...