Squawk Radio

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Barb Samuel introduces the inspiration for MADAME MIRABOU

Books show up in the oddest ways. Madame Mirabou is about a woman whose gift is for perfume, and her business is called Scent of Hours because she's trying to distill the essence of a moment in time, like "Wedding Morning," and "Midnight with my baby daughter."

There is, in the book, a little thread about a gift of perfume she received when she was seven. I'm sure some of you have memories of this very same perfume bottle: Max Factor's Sophisti-cat. It was a tiny flocked cat, with a necklace of ribbon or tiny, tiny pearls, and a miniature feather boa. The photo is one I found on e-bay.

Mine was a gift from our next door neighbor's the Christmas I was eight. We lived in a pink house and they build me a pink desk (they had no children and I loved going over there to hang out in a quiet house, because my parents had four noisy children, so they semi-adopted me the way elderly childless couples will do) and my Max Factor Sophisti-cat was black with a pink ribbon around her neck, and a pink boa and a very small bottle of Hypnotique perfume.

When I first met Christopher Robin, he invited me to an antique show. He collects glass, mainly paperweights, and old metal trucks (which have a special name, but I don't remember what it is). And there, at the show, I was poking through a junky table and found an absolutely perfect, still-domed Sophisti-cat with a pink feather boa!

Scent is the only sense that short-circuits the brain and goes directly to the limbic system, which is the most primitive memory area of our brains. So when you smell peaches cooking and are transported to your grandmother's kitchen when you were five, that's why. And why, when you catch a whiff of some old boyfriend's cologne you can miss the guy, even after years or even decades!

My grandmother went through a rhubarb craze when I was about 12. She cooked rhubarb pie. And strawberry rhubarb pie. And rhubarb tart and rhubarb crisp and rhubarb.....ugh. I can't smell rhubarb to this day without wanting to gag, but what I think of is the fact that she had a party line in that kitchen, and I always, always wanted to listen in to other people's calls. Stories, ya know.

Are you a fan of perfume? Are there scents that take you back in time? Scents that make you very happy or very sad? Tell me about them!

Barb Samuel

Connie Brockway, 10:20 AM