Friday, August 22, 2014


A gift of Shalimar from Chris brings many sweet memories: (from August 2010)

  It’s of equal sweetness to all my favorites, with notes of vanilla (perhaps the drawing-card of all the ones I’ve ever really liked---my first experiments with fragrance were furtive visits to the baking cupboard. When Mother or Mammaw weren’t looking, I’d dab a bit behind my ears and in the “crooks of my elbows” and sail off to third grade, confident in my beautiful aura and aroma).

I haven’t bought Shalimar for myself since that day in the 80’s that the duck flew down the chimney and broke the fancy bottle in my bathtub. Cleaning up duck poo and broken glass can change your mind about a lot of things.


Of A Gracious Plenty:

(January 2014)


Sinking into a deep old clawfoot tub, into the Shalimar-perfumed bubbles, with Spem in Alium on the Bose, or perhaps Tom Waits.    A good book for whiling the time, though this precious NOOK is gripped tighter, held drier, than the decades of John D. MacDonalds with their pulp pages and one-stage-from-lurid covers, which sometimes fell prey to damp fingers or errant drops of fragrant water, emerging from the steam with pages some thicker than before, words a bit wavery and dim.  



And of one of the Paxton People,  Harliss MacIntyre:  (February 2010)


Harliss hit her forties with hairstyle wider than her skinny hips; she toddled through life in three-inch heels below her tiny Chic jeans, leaving Shalimar and whispers in her wake. And one of the wonders of a small town is that she just went where she pleased, and hardly anyone really ostracized her---life went on for Harliss despite her inglorious reputation.


Of Mammaw’s sister Aint Eddie who was from the big city where we live now, and came to us for the Summer every year.  (August ’09)


  I just loved her, and I know she must have grown tired of an eager child monopolizing her every free moment. I loved to see her get off that bus; she’d step down with a great sigh, breeze her face a bit with her Last Supper fan, and pop up her big black umbrella (parasol, to all the ladies of the family) for the walk to the house, and start talking.

She regaled us with tales of all the city doings, the streetcars and the taxicabs and all the stores. I always tried to steer her to stories of “Ellis Airs”---the biggest, nicest department store in town. And she always obliged, telling of beautiful dresses and shoes and handbags which her daughters brought home from a day of shopping. And they ate their lunch in the store. There was an actual restaurant right there inside the building, and you could just take your shopping bags in, set them beside your chair, and order your lunch.


Auntie's stories went into delicious detail about the ladies’ hats, and of their gloves (removed for eating, of course--- a lady never ate with her gloves on---that was TACKY. And those movie stars with the long gloves with diamond bracelets and rings OVER their gloves in the movies, lifting those champagne glasses or caviar-on-toasts to their bright-red lips---that was a confirmation of their hussydom right there).

The world of aspics and toast points and tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad seemed to be a preview of Heaven. I longed to sit at that dainty table just once, to see beautifully-dressed patrons with the demure bearing of a religeuse in a dainty topknot---the ankles-crossed, mouth-corner napkin-dab ladies who breezed in with the auras of Shalimar and Chanel and Pall Malls, and exited in a fluff of air-kisses and shrugged-on mink.


And I've been to Ayres for lunch---wearing Shalimar of my own, by the way---for the incomparable chicken salad and the aura of gently-fading sophistication, in the days before the Tearoom was relegated to a museum, where the lunches are treated somewhat like the other exhibits---relics of another time, another kind of life, to be sampled as would be a sip of Elizabethan mead or a deep-crusted game pye from a hunter's board.


Of the two ladies who had a “Round Table” restaurant in their immense old ancestral home, with their Mama’s cook’s recipes, and descendants of their former staff in the kitchen:   (April ’09)


That one would qualify as a meat
'n' twelve. Tables seat about ten or twelve, with plates set on the perimeter, and a huge, spinning round shelf in the center. You sit with whoever's there, catch a bowl or platter as it spins past you, help yourself, and try to find a setting-down place for it next time around, so you can pick up another dish. Super food, lovely proprietors---two ladies who own and supervise; not an immaculate curl out of place, and pristine dresses creased just SO as they sit down, take a sip of their 40-weight tea, and speak toward the kitchen: "Mighty good tea today, Margrit!"

I tried to imagine the life they must live, just supervising all those wonderful cooks every day---I thought of them as waking to their coffee, reading the Jackson Daily Ledger in their silky robes, a bath and dusting powder and teensy dabs of Toujours Moi or Shalimar in the crook of the elbows, then dressing, stockings rolled just below their knees, and drifting downstairs to take in the delicious aromas and the serene temper of the white-draped dining rooms, ready to receive their guests with the aplomb and ease of royalty, confident in their long-time retainers in the kitchen.


And the most memorable, and regrettable: (March ’09)


Once a pretty lady mallard---not one of our own, unless her homing device was REALLY accurate---invaded our house for a Spa Day. One day when the work crew had been installing some kind of insulation in the ceiling at the office, I got home feeling itchy and scratchy and rashy all over, and couldn’t WAIT for a nice soak in my big tub. As I went in the door, I saw the dog and the cat, side by side on the floor, just exhausted and panting. I couldn’t figure WHAT was wrong with the poor things, until I saw the equally-tired duck sitting over by the fireplace, all nested down and resting.

She had apparently come down the chimney and provided jump-and-chase amusement for those two for quite some time. I gently picked her up and took her outside, where she slowly waddled over to the field and took off. I went back in, tearing off my itchy clothes, ran into my bathroom and reached for the faucet-handle.

My lovely tub was smeared with duck poop in several places, and right in the middle of the tub, my coveted bottle of REAL Shalimar perfume---the pretty bottle with the elegant glass fan for a stopper---was on its side in several pieces, with that glorious scent filling the room.

I said several particularly nice words, gathered up the glass, scrubbed the tub--I’d have bathed in the perfume, but the glass and poop ruled that out---and as I knelt there in my bra and underpants, flinging the Comet---hot, sweaty, swearing under my breath and wanting my bath, something in my wastebasket caught my eye. I had had a Tab as I dressed for work that morning, and had stuck the can upside down into the wastebasket. And nestled in the hollow aluminum bottom was a little round pinkish egg.

I cannot imagine how that lady duck managed to elude cat and dog long enough to leave me that little tribute, nor how she managed to perch her hiney up there just right to lay that egg. And I don’t think the kids would have believed me if not for that odd little egg, pink and round and with a glow like porcelain.

I blew it out and washed it and kept it for years.


harleygirl said...

ha, ha, ha! I sat here reading this thinking how fancy it all sounded...amidst my men, canning pickled beans in a hot, humid, sticky, tiny house, telling one boy to go chase the chickens from the road, my 2 year old trying to sneak out the back door while it was open to air out the humid, steamy house, apples sitting in the middle of the living room (where else will they fit??) waiting to be made into applesauce...and then I read the duck story and thought, "Now THAT sounds more like my life!" :) Thanks for the smile!

Dorothy said...

Oh my, oh me, I love me some Shalimar!!! Way back many years ago my hubby was doing his usual December 24th Christmas shopping and knowing I loved Shalimar, he went to the local Drug Store. They were out of everything in the smaller, affordable bottles and he came home with a huge $50.00 bottle! Of course, I was delighted!

racheld said...


I'm right there in that hot humid kitchen with you---back in our farming-and-canning days, we made a HUGE garden---several acres, and I'd can three or four hundred jars of stuff every Summer. I didn't know how people cooked straight out of the grocery store.

We had jars under beds, cases stacked in closets, and a neat line of quarts two-across up the attic stairs, with just room to step up and down.

Even doing things for the freezer required steaming up the kitchen something fierce---thank goodness the afternoon sun came in the FRONT of the house, or I'd have had heat-stroke, right there in my own home.

But having access to that wonderful bounty in the Winter, and at "no" cost---that was a gracious plenty that I really thought worth the hot work.

A few things I'll mention in e-mail later today.


racheld said...

AWWWW, DOROTHY, how sweet!! Sounds just like my Daddy---he learned that I liked it, and he got Mother to write down the name so he could go to Goldsmith's in Memphis and get some for my birthday.

She wrote "Shalimar," and "Guerlain" on a notepad, and he handed the sheet to the saleslady and said, "I don't know which name is the perfume, but I want to buy it." And he came home with that very pricey little bottle which fell prey to the flappy, frightened duck a couple of years later.

It's just so elegant and special, and makes me feel like a lady.


A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Rachel,

What a beautiful gift to receive from Chris! With the old perfume from Guerlain, one can rarely go wrong (Shalimar, Mitsouko (before they change it to their new formula) and Vol de Nuit). Both the scent as well as the bottle (especially the art deco bottle of Vol de Nuit) are a work of art.

I wear Guerlain's "Mouchoir de Monsieur" which is my all time favourite scent. Once you wear the same scent for many years, you can't go back to wear new, cheap smelling, pungent and artificial fragrances. One becomes loyal and faithful in wearing the same, familiar scent as long as the perfume companies don't change their formula and start to use cheap materials instead of natural ingredients.

L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain is the most legendary perfume. I have got a bottle (EDP, eau de parfum) on my desk. It's very nostalgic, elegant and Parisian, a favourite perfume of the writer, Jean Rhys).

I am very sorry to hear that your beautiful perfume bottle of Shalimar (isn't it the most beautiful glass bottle?) was broken in the most catastrophic accident involving a duck. We lose our perfume in many ways. Some faded with time, exposure to the sunlight or evaporate in the high temperature but this is probably the first time I heard - the disaster struck by a duck.

Now, you reminded me to check my chimney and god knows what might fall into it when I am not around at home - more like a seagull, a starling, a swallow or a thrush.

Hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Thank you so much for your beautiful, kind and very high praise, as always, you bestow on me. I'd like to convince you, in my humble way, that you have praised my little effort beyond its merit. So, I must use of this opportunity to thank you kindly once more, dear Rachel.

Best wishes, ASD

Jeanne said...

Hi Rachel, Your post is a 'Gracious Plenty' and I love reading every word.
Shalimar is my friend's favorite to this day. We have been friends for 56 years. She lives in CA but we still stay in touch and visit each other from time to time. Her husband bought her the biggest bottle of Shalimar I have ever seen.

I am picturing the duck and the terrible disaster of the broken treasure, not to mention bird poop and broken glass. Yikes! Shalimar is such a thoughtful gift from your guy who loves you dearly. Put it on your dresser this time. Smile!!!

We have a nice little restaurant where you can eat outside and their specialty is chicken salad served in a lovely tomato. My fave! I do remember shopping in some well known stores that had a lovely place to eat lunch. One was Neiman Marcus. We shopped there when we really wanted to have a special day shopping and lunch out. Mostly it was for lunch out. Smile.

We have been gone all weekend visiting my only brother and his wife. They live in NC but the Eastern part of the state, We live in Western, NC. A 200 mile trip. We arrived home late today, thus, my late comment. We had a wonderful visit.

Have a wonderful week and thank you for your comment on our visit to the Biltmore. It was a fun day.
Love you much,

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I'm almost ashamed to say I have never experienced Shalimar perfume..but of course I've heard of it for years.
A duck in the tube...laid a tiny egg in the waste picked her up and carried her outside.? Duckie poo poo? In your tub? Sunofagun but that's quite a story! I think it should be published. I are onto something!! :) I LOVED it...the entire post was a winner!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Darling Rachel,

We are late, so late, indeed, amazing that we have arrived at all since these days we really have no idea whether we are coming or going and if we are coming or going what day of the week it is that we are arriving or leaving. Whatever, we have breezed in on a glorious waft of Shalimar by Guerlain.....the delicious, sweet smelling amber of silver screen stars, aged aunts, perfume connoisseurs and ducks. Wonderful!

Only connect said our hero of the mighty pen, E. M. Forster, and how beautifully and intricately you have woven together these tales of Southern Life and Shalimar. We have delighted in them all, each snapshot taking us off into a scene so delicately crafted by your words that we can be right there amongst the action.

We can empathise with the aftermath of the appearance of the Mallard. Seagulls make a not totally infrequent entry into our Brighton rooms down the chimney and the scene of devastation that they leave behind demands an awful lot more than a dab of Shalimar here and there to deal with!

Favourite perfumes are both powerful and intensely personal. We cannot now be parted from our Chanels. Number 5 for her and Pour Homme for him. Our clothes are impregnated with the stuff so to change would be a wardrobe malfunction of the highest order. And it is amazing how just the merest whiff of a particular scent can transport one back instantly in time and space. You have done that so perfectly for us today!

Jacqueline said...

Very funny with the duck!
I need to try some. I don't wear perfume that often because it always smells great on others and when I wear it, it doesn't smell the same.
So glad you are doing the Frozen party. It will be so fun and so memorable. I notice some stores are getting items now. I just got the most adorable tea set featuring Olaf for Christmas. I got 2 but need 1 more. I also got some adorable hats with the braids down the back from Bed Bath and Beyond of all places! Have a blast!!

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

This brings back so many memories. What a lovely fragrance.
Love the duck story.

Kim S. said...

Starting back again, my dear! Getting behind seems to be my specialty. Will catch up a bit here at LT and try to write a real message soon! Shalimar! Perfume names used to be exotic and romantic. Evocative of faraway lands. Now they just seem to be named for the trashy starlet of the month. Sigh. And those beautiful bottles! Like works of art. Even the cheapy and stinky Evening in Paris bottle was mysterious! I love the fragrant stories!