A la recherche du Coppertone perdu


‘Proust and I wish you and yours a most odiforous summer’

Before you correct me in the comments, yes, I know that “odiforous” isn’t a real word. According to Evil Spell-Check, it should be “odorous,” but I’ve been saying “odiforous” for years and, if you ask me, “odorous” isn’t any fun at all.

So what’s with the odors, “iforous” or not?

Well, unless you’ve been spending the last 75 days alone in a cabin in rural Vermont, you know that losing your sense of smell is one of the symptoms of Covid-19. But before we get into that, how about that guy, huh? True story. Daniel Thorson emerged after spending March 13 through May 23 in isolation at a monastic retreat and asked, “I’m back from 75 days in silence. Did I miss anything?”

Once he heard I bet he skedaddled right back into that cabin. Kind of like the Groundhog and his shadow. Except in Poor Daniel’s case it would be the pandemic and the protests. Not to mention the fact that there’s no major league baseball.

Wouldn’t this scare you if you just emerged from 75 days alone in a remote cabin?

Okay, back to Covid-19 and losing your sense of smell. A few weeks ago I started dabbing on a little perfume every couple of days not because I was going anywhere (hah) but to see if I could still smell it. I mentioned this to my Mom and she does it too. I often say that I’m turning into my mother; I guess this is just one more piece of irrefutable proof.

Not-So-Cosmic Twins

Though I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world to lose one’s sense of smell. I can think of a heck of a lot of worse things than not being able to catch a whiff of, say, durian. Though these days if the scent of dead-animals-and-garlicky-sweatsocks wafted my way I might just be transported back to Borneo. (Read more about durian and Borneo in “Social Distancing, the Borneo Way.”)

A trunkful of totally odiforous durian along a roadside in Borneo

Because that’s the other thing about smells — the way they can transport you. Just last week The Child walked through the kitchen on her way to the beach and I was immediately taken back to the “beach” when I was a teenager: lying on top of the picnic table in our back yard in Southern Illinois, slathered with Coppertone and listening to the Yardbirds on Radio KXOK.

Not a beach photo, but you can see that I was a participant in another odiforous 60s trend: the use of Sun-In

I also get transported to my youth by the smells of chlorine and cut grass and — not that I ever get a whiff of it any more — mosquito repellent. Nope, not that lemony mosquito repellent you spray on your skin; I mean the kind that got sprayed out of the back of a truck and made a big old cloud that we kids would ride our bikes through. It’s a wonder we grew up at all.

Those transporting smells aren’t all summer ones. How about Christmas trees? Though for the past few years ours has come from this evergreen candle

In closing, let me wish all of you a healthy sense of smell that can transport you — at least in an olfactory memory sort of way — back to the Time Before Corona. And, speaking of summers past, here, just for fun, are three generations of babies enjoying a “beach.” Can’t you just smell those delicious baby napes?

Elderly Baby goes first. That’s me, of course

Now here’s The Child

Last, and yes, least — in years, that is — here’s Baby Madeleine

Amagansett, New York. June 2020


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16 thoughts on “A la recherche du Coppertone perdu

  1. I agree about smells linking you to your pass. I know after 50 years, I still love the smell of Patchouli-has never changed from my college days. It’s like it has connected me through the decades. And the same with Peonies- y childhood and my mother. Very nice post-took me back.

    • Thank you so much, Terri! So glad I could be a facilitator to your memory recovery. It really is amazing how our senses can trigger memories. I’m so glad they’ve triggered yours —and mine!

  2. Look at those thighs–not yours, of course, so cute in your bikini, but that baby’s! We heard word yesterday that our neighborhood pool will be opening this summer, so all is not lost. I’m breaking out the sunblock!

    • Baby thighs! The best! So glad you can break out the sunblock — and are not using “suntan lotion.” Have fun, and thanks for reading. It’s always so nice to see you here xoxo

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