The one aroma that interests me comes out of my Bialetti Mokaexpress every morning, but there are other nice aromas, nice because of the memories they evoke.

Stashed away in a little glass box in the back of my armoire is a tiny bottle of Tabu. What’s left of the scent is condensed (it’s 50+ years old, after all) in the bottom of the bottle. I bought it for my mom for Christmas when I was nine. My dad took me Christmas shopping in South Omaha, to a department store named Phillips. We wandered around and ended up at the perfume counter.

“Do you want to get cologne or perfume for your mom?” the clerk asked me.

“What’s the difference?” I asked

“Perfume is very concentrated. It’s pure scent. Cologne is more diffused.”

I looked at my dad. “Diffused?”

“Not as strong, honey.”

In my mind this explanation made perfume a higher quality product.

“I would like perfume, please.” I was raised right.

The perfume came in a tiny box and the box had silk threads wrapped all around it. It was really stunning. I was so proud.

We got home and I wrapped it. My dad and I decided that because it was so small, just for fun, so my mom would think I didn’t get her anything, we’d hang it on the tree. I hung it and that led to a catastrophe.

At the time we had a beagle. Her name was Amy and we got her from my Brownie Scout leader. Besides being a beagle, Amy had never been trained. There’s really not a lot more to say except I loved her. I thought my dream of having a dog had come true, but the dog was Amy and she was an untrained beagle. She ended up that summer being arrested (yes, really, by the sheriff) for killing chickens (and bringing them home to us).

At some point in the night, Amy saw the package on the tree and, perhaps, it had, for Amy, an enticing aroma.

The next morning, I got up to see how the present was doing (I was 9, and still lived in an animated universe…) and there it was, on the carpet under the tree, shredded. The beautiful box, my careful wrapping, destroyed. I found the bottle just under the edge of the sofa.

Amy had jumped up, gotten the box, brought it down, killed it and disemboweled it.

I don’t recall what happened next. I don’t remember if we rewrapped the bottle in another box or what we did. I imagine we did that. I can even imagine my dad trying to make it into some other wonderful thing, suggesting a shoe box and fooling my mom into thinking she got slippers. He would do that, but I don’t know if he did. I do remember Christmas Eve and being on tenterhooks when she opened the present. I was sure she’d love it.

She didn’t. It was not her kind of scent at all, but sometimes she wore it to the League of Women Voters meetings on the first Thursday of every month. She kept the bottle for years and years and somehow, down the road, long before she died, the bottle came back to me.

11 thoughts on “Tabu

  1. This is a lovely story, Martha, with its focus on you, your parents, and a mischievous dog. It made me like your parents and your young self. I received Tabu as a gift from a student the first year I taught. I sprayed myself with it liberally the first day after vacation, and three of my students complained of headaches. I thought there might be a connection to my perfume because I, too, had a headache, which I rarely suffered from. I never wore it again, though I liked the scent.

  2. This was a sweet/sad post, Martha. My mom used Emeraude by Coty. And then Cotillion by Avon.
    Ha! I loved l’Air Du Temps and White Shoulders. Now I tend towards funkier scents that I get from the little shops that I haunt. But when I see a small ‘vintage’ bottle of my old scents, my heart still skips a beat.

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