Shalimar by
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I have three bottles of Shalimar in my house. It was my mother’s favorite perfume, and she kept gifting it to me whenever she found it on sale. Now that I am older, I get it. I often forget that I have purchased something, resulting in finding multiples of the same item when I cleaned out my house to prepare for my upcoming move. Mom loved her Shalimar and therefore was sure I would be delighted to receive it, over and over and over.

I rushed home and sprayed myself with Shalimar. It wasn’t a strong scent, but I could smell my mother’s perfume.

But here’s the thing. I never loved how Shalimar smelled on me and I rarely wear any perfume. I tried gifting it to my daughters, but they are not into perfume and turned me down. One bottle of Shalimar sat on my dresser and the other two are in the guest bathroom. Occasionally, when I was dressed up for some occasion, I would wear it, especially after my mother died five years ago. The fragrance plus wearing some of her jewelry made me feel like she was still with me.

After undergoing extensive dental work a year ago, including a root canal and a dental implant, I noticed that my sense of smell was greatly diminished. This had a couple of positive consequences. I no longer woke at night smelling the skunks that traveled my neighborhood nor was I disturbed by the smells of paint and cleaning solutions. On the other hand, I’m not sure I would smell a gas leak and some foods didn’t taste as flavorful as they had in the past. I missed the smell of my bread or brownies baking in the oven. But most of all, I could no longer smell my mother’s Shalimar.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic forced him to close, I was seeing someone for acupuncture to treat a persistent back problem. He started asking me about other symptoms and treated me for them as well. I felt like it was working as well as any drugs I had tried, so I continued to see him. During one of my visits, I shared a ridiculous encounter I had with an ENT I saw to address the loss of smell issue. If you want the gory details, see my post When Your Doctor Uses Google to Diagnose You.

He laughed at my story, stuck me with needles, and told me to “enjoy the ride.” At some point during my “ride,” I started to smell something pleasant, like a scented candle. Granted, it was faint, but fragrant nonetheless. After my session, the acupuncturist confessed he had also treated me for loss of smell. I rushed home and sprayed myself with Shalimar. It wasn’t a strong scent, but I could smell my mother’s perfume. I started to cry. This fragrant flashback was the smell I missed most of all.

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Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. Yes, Laurie! Yes, to Shalimar, yes to the memory of your mother, yes to the tears! I love this story and thank you for it. And if during the frenzy of packing and moving during a pandemic, or maybe after things have settled down, you want to send me one of those bottles you no longer want, I would be thrilled to have it. I still have a bottle of Old Spice and Chanel No. 5 but alas, no Shalimar, also my mom’s favorite scent. And BTW, a fascinating tale about acupuncture!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Barb, I will happily send you one of my bottles since neither of my daughters is into it. Email me your address. Interesting how much the smell of Shalimar came up in this prompt. I never realized how popular it was back in the day.

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    It is interesting how smell and taste are bound up (and we find the loss of them are symptoms of COVID-19). How distressing that yours were adversely affected after all that dental work, Laurie. I, too have used acupuncture – for my migraines – and got some, but not lasting, relief. But your ability to smell your mother’s Shalimar, however briefly, was poignant and hopeful. When the pandemic is over, I believe your treatment will resume and your acupuncturist will help you restore your sense of smell, so you can again be in touch with your beloved mother in a tangible way.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Betsy, like you the affects o acupuncture don’t seem to hold over time. So, I don’t expect to get it back in a permanent way, but just to faintly smell her perfume or my challah baking in the oven was great.

  3. Suzy says:

    Funny how your mother kept giving you Shalimar over and over because she liked it, without ever discovering that you actually didn’t. That seems like a classic mother-daughter thing, which I hope I am not guilty of with my daughters. How interesting about the changes to your sense of smell, both that dental work decreased it, and that acupuncture brought it back. Sounds like you should return to that acupuncturist after the pandemic is over. Wonderful that even the faint smell of Shalimar could bring your mother back to you.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      I think the same thing, Suzy. The dental work probably affected my sinuses, but I’m not sure there is a medical treatment for it. So once things open up, it’s back to acupuncture. I didn’t realize how much I missed that smell until both my mother and my sense fo smell were gone.

  4. Wonderful Laurie, of course spraying on the Shalimar after all those years you cried.

  5. What a wonderful story Laurie. It prompts me to try to remember if my mom used a particular cologne. Something tells me that it might have been Chanel #5 – I can picture the small bottles (or is that from incessant advertising all these years?) but I just don’t know.

  6. Marian says:

    You can enjoy the memories of your mother, and how beautiful those bottles of Shalimar look, Laurie. I can relate to how you didn’t like the smell. Keep us up to speed on the acupuncture after the pandemic is over. I suffered some loss of smell from nose surgery years ago, but not as acutely as you have. A while back I tried acupuncture for a condition that turned out to be a misdiagnosis, so the acupuncture didn’t work for it, but my sinuses cleared up and I had a better sense of smell for a while.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Marian, that seems to be the way acupuncture goes for me as well. I get temporary relief. There is a place right near my new condo. Debating whether to go there or back to my guy. But since neither option is open now…

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