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My childhood scents

QUOTE: In this Pandemic, we need to do those things that make us happy that can stabilise our mental health and elevate us in joy and happiness. In this pandemic going back to our childhood and igniting our childhood memories can keep us in a spirited place for days

My Father, the most distinguished Alfred Amodu, was a man of exquisite taste. This man who rose to the top of his career in the Benue state civil service as Permanent Secretary and before then had taught at the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria in the Institute of Education as a lecturer in Curriculum and Guidance and counselling, was a man very much after my heart. A graduate of Ohio state university and Cambridge University, my father was a well-travelled man. Add this to his impeccable spoken English and his good looks and there you have my father. But it was his relationship with his children that blew my sock off. He will take time to guide you through your homework, drive you patiently to school and then sit in the car waiting for you to conclude your silly pranks with your friends and then drive you home from a non-existent party. I love my Dad to the moon and back. And you could never hear him raise his voice.

My Dad’s many travels yielded many gifts and my favourite would be the perfume troves. Little boxes of some of the most well-known designer perfumes will be sticking out of his travel boxes once he opens them. I will be sitting on his bed wide-eyed waiting for my treat. I was only 11 years old when I began to wear designer perfumes. Not in big bottles but the miniature sets of all the designer scents whose big bottles were owned by adults.  My father had no idea that while he was giving me a treat and encouraging me to be hygienic, be a lady and smell nice wherever I went, he was training my olfactory senses for something that will become a part of my wardrobe.

So, at a very young age, I knew what perfume someone was wearing when they walked into a room and if I could not tell the brand name, I could at least tell what the ingredients were that went into the perfume. I could tell if it was musk which was my favourite at the time or jasmine or frangipani. I was adept at telling if it was a floral perfume or a woody smell. I was even able to tell which two perfumes had been spritzed on or if it was a medley of scents. At the height of my scent savvy, I could easily pass for a nose. These are the experts at perfume houses whose jobs were to smell the various mixes and determine whether the perfumes would work or not or if one particular ingredient needed to be increased or reduced to make a perfect blend. They are paid thousands of dollars by design houses to stay. Their job is full of a collection of aromas and determiners. What a way to earn a living in pure perfume joy.

My adventures at a local family and friends level made me a mini-nose and made me feel extremely powerful. Let me guess what you are wearing. I would say to an older family member who because I was only sixteen will dare me and I will be spot on. I earned many prizes preferably perfumes and magazines whenever they had to travel anywhere in the world.

The scent purveyor that I had become also gave excellent openers for when I was meeting strangers or when I needed an icebreaker. As I grew older, I began to follow the trends of the different designer perfumes, who was promoting what and who their noses were. I had samples from shops whenever I travelled and although I would buy only one perfume, I would get samples of all the others and decide which one I wanted the next time I was ready. I scratched through advertisements of International magazines and would sniff to see what new collection a designer had introduced. I travelled through pictures whenever there was the launch of a new perfume in as faraway places as New York or Spain. I knew every member of the cognoscenti who attended and which music and film star was in attendance. I knew these things including what hors d’oeuvres were served at the event. I had truly become a master at the perfume business. In fact, I began to think I might one day open a perfume line. Still on the cards. Who knows?

On one of my many travels as an adult, I had six hours before my connecting flight. I was flying through Cairo to Jerusalem. The airline had arranged a sightseeing tour. I picked the tour with a visit to a museum of pyramids and a trip to a farm of perfume oil leaves. I was told by the guide that the leaves were picked by children between the ages of seven and ten as older hands could destroy their essence and therefore ruin the purpose of the farms. I bought at least three perfume oils, any of which could be a base for another layer of eau de toilette, a light scent to give you an amazing product dedicated only to you.  As I flew out of Cairo I wondered if what I had in my carry- all were products from child labour. I still think about it from time to time.

I am known to linger longer in a perfumery with strips of testing paper to elevate my senses and allow me partake of nature’s scents combined by perfumers, accentuated by noses from across the world and worn by the most exquisite men and women who know their perfumes.

In 2011, I presented my 2nd book to the public, a collection of Poems, Don’t look at me like that. At the public presentation where former first lady Ajoke Murtala Muhammed was a special guest of honour, I had a special package with branded perfume oils in it. I felt that poetry, especially love poems, went side by side with perfumes and other such ethereal things. It was a beautiful basket package with the book, a loofah, perfume oils, scented bath soaps and a face towel, well apportioned with wrapped nets and ribbons. Nothing says love at all times like a perfume. I thought it was a beauty and so did my guests. The event itself I daresay was magical with grapes and apples and pears at the welcome entrance.

My team had overreached themselves. But talking about fruits, new thoughts and fruity scents have returned to the front burner in my space and my favourite perfumes right now are from a private collection.  I am loving blackberry and bay and it does not matter who the perfume maker is, I am also loving anything that has citrus in it, lemon oranges and Pear. I am also loving some intense aroma. I have fallen in love with bourbon and vanilla. I am also returning to my childhood scents and scouting for anything that is musky or woody, anything with jasmine or Neroli in it, anything with Tuberose and frangipani in it. I am also currently mixing cocktails of lemon and Neroli and Pomegranate noir and pear. I am in the middle of exploring some male perfumes, they are intense and if not too strong they can be layered with a light floral perfume.

In this Pandemic, we need to do those things that make us happy that can stabilise our mental health and elevate us in joy and happiness. In this pandemic going back to our childhood and igniting our childhood memories can keep us in a spirited place for days. Although we are no longer going to social events or even going out much, we can mix our perfumes and experiment and return to our childhood scents. I am there right now and nothing could be more exciting.

What are you wearing says someone visiting my office after three months of lockdown as we ease open slowly and keep our social distances. My cocktail of perfumes has wafted towards her at the door and my happiness is now infectious. Blackberry and bay I say to her and a layer of lemon and orange. It’s a happy scent. Her smile from her social distance position is infectious. It’s a great combo she says. I am modest and don’t take the credit for my childhood scents. That credit is my Father’s.

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