for my mum, Shirley MacDonald Kishkan, 1926-2010

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From “Tokens”, an essay included in Euclid’s Orchard, forthcoming from Mother Tongue Publishing, 2017.

What do I do with a bottle of fifty-year-old perfume? I am 57 myself. It’s not something I’d wear. I discovered Chanel 19 in 1972 and never have found any reason to change. I don’t even know if this bottle is still viable. Does perfume turn to vinegar, as an opened bottle wine will if not used within a reasonable time? When I sniff the bottle cap, I say that I smell my mother but how can that be? She wore perfume so seldom — ¼ of a bottle over 48 years. Maybe she knew she would never have another bottle of French perfume, maybe she wanted to ration it to keep the memory of my father’s return fresh. What I am smelling is the way I would like to remember her, in a rustling cocktail dress one or two evenings only, her feet wiggling into pretty shoes, checking her seams in the bedroom mirror, her eyes bright with anticipation of dancing! Not the old disappointments, a daughter who didn’t visit often enough, the house sold, her husband dead, the days growing shorter and shorter as the year approached the longest night, the bottle of French perfume forgotten in the camphorwood chest, among the gloves and her one cashmere sweater, an old silk square from Zanzibar folded neatly on the bottom.

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~ by theresakishkan on May 14, 2017.

4 Responses to “for my mum, Shirley MacDonald Kishkan, 1926-2010”

  1. How sad, a life disintegrated into disappointment. You’ve conveyed this beautifully.

    • Thanks so much, Leslie. The essay about my mum is long and complicated, like our relationship, and I hope there’s some balance….There’s certainly love.

      • I was hoping this was just a small piece of a complicated story. I look forward to reading the whole essay. This little snippet moved me to tears, so I have no doubt the essay is powerful. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I’m about to look at the copyedits…let’s hope it all hangs together.

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