I saw Grief drinking a cup of sorrow and called out, ‘It tastes sweet, does it not?’ ‘You’ve caught me,” Grief answered, ‘and you’ve ruined my business, how can I sell sorrow when you know it’s a blessing?’
In 1981 a 15-year-old female discovered a lump on her neck tucked behind her right ear. Her parents promptly took her to a specialist, a young surgeon who diagnosed it as a benign tumor. He recommended immediate removal via surgery lest it turn malignant in the future. He further informed them that there might be a minute chance that nerves were attached to this tumour and that he would have no choice but to sever them, resulting in paralysis with severe facial drooping on the right side of her face as well as the loss of her sense of taste. He stated that this would be very unlikely in someone so young. However, he insisted that her parents sign a waiver indicating that they were aware of the potential risk and would not pursue legal action should the outcome of the surgery be less than favourable.
Her grief stricken mother, fully aware of society’s prejudice against any sort of physical disfigurement, was observed crying at work one day and was questioned by her employer as to the source of her distress. Upon hearing the dilemma he insisted that her daughter be taken to his personal physician at his expense. This doctor then sent her on to a seasoned surgeon who specialised in those types of tumours. Given that their modest health insurance would not cover his high fee, he waived it with the agreement that he be allowed to publish this unusual case in a medical journal, as she was the youngest patient he had ever operated on with such a tumour in his 30 years of practice. He promised her parents that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the outcome of the surgery would not be a lifelong disfigurement.
The surgery was scheduled on the day of New Year’s Eve. What should have been a three-hour surgery became an eight-hour ordeal as the surgeon worked diligently to carefully release the large bundle of nerves that were completely entwined around the tumour. On New Year’s Eve, as everyone in NYC was toasting with champagne, she was miserable in her hospital bed, vomiting all night, having been under the influence of anesthesia for such an extended amount of time.
The next morning a team of doctors including her surgeon came into her room to assess her. They forewarned her parents that because of the unforeseen complications there might be some temporary nerve damage affecting the area with paralysis likely for a few weeks. The surgeon asked her to smile. She did. She made note of the reactions of all the doctors as their faces lit up and overheard one of them whisper to another, “It’s a miracle”.
Her smile and her face were intact with absolutely no nerve damage.
She spent a week in the hospital existing on pain killers and ginger ale due to the extreme nausea caused by the remnants of anesthesia. She left the hospital weighing a mere 77 pounds. Once at home her mother, knowing of her love of perfume, gifted her a bottle of Chloe. The gorgeous tuberose fragrance warmly enveloped her tiny body throughout that recovery process.
Top: honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, lilac, coconut, bergamot, aldehydes, juicy peach
Heart: jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose and carnation along with the oris root, and the base adds up with
Drydown: oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar and benzoin
Over 30 years later, what remains from this trauma is a three inch scar on my neck. Recently I was gifted a perfume bottle of vintage Chloe in pristine condition. I wondered what thoughts would be conjured up upon smelling it. It was the memory of my mother’s love. It was the fact that I was given the gift of understanding what it might very well have been like to go through life with people constantly staring at you (a benefit to all the students that I work with, some of whom present with facial deformities caused by syndromes). It was the idea that fate stepped in to alter my life all those years ago.
A sample of vintage Chloe awaits one reader. Leave a comment on any specific perfume that evokes strong memories for you.