Chanel #5, Alcoholism and Dementia

“You smell like the nursing home,” my son said.

We were reading on the couch, working through a hard day.

These hard days come and go for both of us.

Grief. PTSD. Change;  Bad combination.

I went in the other room and took off my sweater.

All I could smell was Chanel # 5.

Chanel #5

My mother’s signature scent.

and mine too.

I have good memories of Chanel # 5 and my mother;

My son;

not so much.

For my son, Chanel #5 brings to mind dementia and alcoholism;

for him it is mixed with the smell of cat feces in my mothers old condo.

For my son Chanel #5 brings to mind the secured floors of nursing homes,

watching Mommy Kay spit up pudding

and glaring at me.

For my son Chanel # 5 brings to  mind my mother’s body;


Chanel # 5;

My mothers signature scent even in death.

I showered and did my laundry.

I am wearing Tea Rose for now;

The signature scent of my 5th grade teacher

Mrs. Jones;

the woman who gave me

Poetic license.

My Chanel #5 is

In the drawer;


For how long?

How long will it need to hold itself?

How long will I need to hold up?

Tea Rose.

Tea Rose reminds me of the Power of Words.

Words can hold me  for a very, very long time.

Peace, Jen

~ by Step On a Crack on March 17, 2012.

12 Responses to “Chanel #5, Alcoholism and Dementia”

  1. very deep personal thoughts – amazing and powerful, beyond romantic fragrances

    David in Maine USA


  2. I love you! First time i’ve read a post since surrealism. Take good care of you. You first. Will will follow mom! He will be with you. He is a big part of you. Hang on to each other. You are connected like no others. Love Mel


  3. Wow! totally original and moving.


  4. You are so amazing and full of insight.
    Words are your sword.
    Fragrance can be such a powerful reminder of the past. I cannot identify what scent my mother wore, but it takes me back in a flash.
    Nobody in my entire life ever wore Shalimar perfume, and yet, that makes me feel nostalgic in a good way, and has become ‘my’ perfume 🙂 (and the name of my beloved cat too) xx


  5. We can’t choose olfactory triggers, which you obviously understand. They are powerful.
    I love the Tea Rose connection to words. You must be very symbolic. Me, too.
    Yet another example of your choice to be a Mom first. You are an original example of being there for your son in a way that you never experienced. The cycle has ended with you. That is beating all the odds. Can you feel the victory in that?


  6. Jen, I’ve read the sense of smell holds the deepest memories. Interesting how those almost invisible moments become so clear by the simple whiff of the familiar that wears a name. I understand these moments and know they are bitter sweet. I believe they are becoming sweeter by the day. You know what I mean. I am so thankful you are sharing these moments with us. I feel affirmed and understood in your words. xo, all is grace….


  7. Sounds like the different in senses trigger both the good and the bad. Two sides of the spectrum, very different in you and your son. Both are right. That’s what makes you unique. Take care of yourself.


    • Hello there and thank you for being here!

      Scent is evocative and powerful. Aromatherapy works.

      It was so strange to realize my sons reaction to the scent of Chanel.. I thought I smelled of old sick people: no. I smelled like my mom. Weird huh?

      I still sneak in and smell the Chanel from time to time. It makes me remember things that don’t want to be lost. I will refrain from wearing it until my son is ready. Peace to you! Jen


  8. Amazing sharing my dear. A beautiful portrait of the evocative nature of scent. personal, honest and moving


    • Louise,

      Thank you VERY much! Scent is one amazing trigger for all manner of memory. My therapist uses scent in her practice when doing EMDR or Brain Spotting. I had to smell a lot of Chanel #5 before I could work through and wear it. Aromatherapy is REAL!

      Thank you as always for your being here!

      XO Jen


  9. Powerful reading! Reminds me once when i was drunk and a stranger hit me on the back of the head and knocked me unconscious. i fell forward face first and broke some kind of bone in my face which severed some nerves and completely eliminated my sense of smell and taste as well. It slowly came back but, to this day, i’m not sure if they came back right or not!


  10. Oh I absolutely love this post-it speaks to me deeply. And it also made me laugh actually, only because #5 used to be the scent for me as well for years. A few months ago, after much trial and error, I switched to #19. But I also started burning more essential oils in my home, and re-appreciating the powers of aromatherapy. #5 now kind of smells like of debauchery to me. It brings back black outs, yet also lost loves. I too still have half a bottle of the scented bath oil, which is potent, tucked away, untouched for over a year, make that two. However, my daughter does like the smell, so sometimes, I bring it out, and she makes it ok for me.


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