Memories, Dreams, Reflections…

Going through life we keep bits and pieces from the past – memories, mementoes and keepsakes. When I feel happy or if I’m sad I would go through that eclectic collection to smile, relive some moments or just to assess my possessions. Interestingly, I often find perfumes among those tokens of the past but, of course, people I love hold the primary spots…

*

The first memory ever from my childhood that I think I have: I’m standing in my crib, I see my mother washing something in the bathroom under the running water. I want to call her but I can’t: I’m not talking yet.

I was told that I started talking when I was ten months old but in that memory I felt frustrated by not being able to attract my mother’s attention. I really needed her! Can it be an actual memory from when I was 10 m.o.? Or was it a dream that I had later? I can’t be sure but it’s a fact that before I was two we moved from the apartment where I could see a bathroom from my room and I’ve never been back to it.

*

The first fashion item I remember was a shorts and top set – a gift from a distant relative from the U.S. – that miraculously made its way to me through the iron curtain. I was about five. It was so different from everything I had to wear then and I loved it and wore it whenever allowed.

My Mother and I
That summer my parents took me to a seaside vacation. I don’t have a continuous picture of the events and don’t even know how long we stayed there but I have random glimpses from that trip (and a photo above to demonstrate the top from the set that traveled to me halfway around the World).

… We rented a room at the apartment (with owners living in the next room). It was on the second floor and one night somebody used a ladder and tried to steal my parents’ jeans (a valuable and almost unobtainable commodity at the time). I don’t remember if they succeeded but it caused an animated discussion the next morning between all inhabitants of the apartment.

… One day when my father, who could tolerate sun a little bit better than both my mom and I, decided to stay on the beach longer, and two of us were walking back to the apartment, some guy paid my mother a compliment saying that she looked like my older sister. We both were pleased.

… On our landlady’s bookshelf there was a perfume that completely seized my attention. First of all, the name was Zolushka (which means Cinderella). In addition to that, the box had a double wall and if you were to carefully push Cinderella away from the mirror you could see her dress. I can’t tell if I smelled the perfume but I immediately fell in love with its box.

Zolushka Perfume
I used all the charm I had to convey to the landlady how much I liked the box and would love to own it. No luck: I got a typical answer of an adult who counts on a short attention span of a child: “Maybe the next time when you come to visit and I’m done with the perfume…” I bet she couldn’t even imagine how good my memory was…

*

For many years after that, whenever I was at a store that had a beauty department, I would be looking for Zolushka. I’m not sure I would be able to persuade my parents to buy it for me but I didn’t think that far – I wanted to find it.

I’ve never seen that perfume or that box again – until I started looking online for pictures of it now, many decades later. Now I wonder: was there actually a dress inside that looking-glass? Maybe I forgot and it’s a mermaid tail?

Rusty and my top
This top came back to the U.S. with me. It’s the oldest material possession I have. At some point it was touched by every woman in my family so it’s very dear to me. And look at that orange cat! (I’m not talking about Rusty).

As children we have a luxury of a hope that if you want something badly your wish might come true. As adults we know that sometimes no matter how much you want something to happen it’s not possible. Sometimes it really hurts. But, as an advantage of the age, we get to cherish memories, dreams and reflections of the past. If we are lucky, both those remembrances and our memory are good.

I am lucky.

Images: Zolushka perfume found somewhere; my mom and I – an unknown street photographer, Rusty and my top – my own.

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27 thoughts on “Memories, Dreams, Reflections…

  1. What a touching and beautiful post, Undina. I like a lot that it tells us both when the foundation for a perfume appreciation AND the love of ginger cats started :-)
    I think your earliest memory could be true, I remember a scene from when I was just 11-12 months, and when I told my mother about my memory she verified that I was as I remembered.
    Even if the Cinderella perfume bottle might be a bit different from what you remembered, isn’t it great that we can actually find these things now in cyber space?
    And super cute photo of you and your beautiful mother.

    • Thank you, Asali. I was surprised myself when I discovered that ginger cat on the top: I didn’t remember it was there. And now I’m tempted to buy a vintage bottle of that perfume and look inside the mirror.

  2. You have some great memories. I’m sure that some of them are nicer and pleasing and some are more sad. But they are yours an no one is going to take them away from you. In my family we also have such material objects that carry a lot of memories from the past.
    For example, I still keep on the bookshelf in my room a mascot of a racoon, which my gradpa bought, as I was told being 2-3 years old, on the very day of my birth.

  3. So, so beautiful, Undina. When you write these nostalgic pieces, I can’t help but think that there is a memoir waiting to be written, and if there ever was, I’d be the first in line to buy it. You have such an understated and deft way of relating your memories, which are all the more direct and all the more wistful for it. (They have a bare-bones poetic style to them.)

    The photos you chose really make the post, too. Seeing that Zolushka perfume box you fell in love with and, more than anything, that snapshot of you and your very beautiful mother. Ah, and seeing that you still have the top and how you pictured it with your beloved Rusty … all of it just fits together perfectly. Exquisite.

  4. What a special post, thanks Undina. There are a number of reflections of the person you are today in it. Beautiful.

    I love the way you say that top was touched by every woman in your family. That is something to cherish.

    • Thank you, Tara.
      I actually realized that connection only as I was writing the post: the relatives were on my father’s side so they sent that gift for me to my grandmother (my father’s mom); then my mother was dressing me up and taking care of my clothes; later, as I grew out of that top, my other grandmother (my mother’s mother) sewed those ruffles on to make it bigger.

  5. This is such a beautiful piece of writing, I can feel the nostalgia and the emotion so clearly even though these aren’t my memories. Memory is a tricky thing. It’s hard to tell sometimes – especially like with your earliest memory – is it something you actually remember, or was it just part of a dream? Probably a little bit of both.

    • Thank you, Caitlin. I appreciate your reading my reflections. I was so sure it was an actual memory until I started writing about it. But once I put it in writing for others I started doubting myself. Not that it really matters and you put it nicely: let’s think that it was “a little bit of both.”

  6. This is a lovely post, Undina, from your earliest memories to your reflection on those memories. My earliest memories were primarily of being with my older siblings (we were approximately each 1 year apart from the next sibling), playing nicely but also fighting a lot. I was 3 1/2 when my very pregnant mother declared from the top of the stairs wearing her blue with orange dandelions housedrezs that we were being too noisy and that she might as well leave and have the baby. When my sister finally came home, I thought she was my new toy and was absolutely fascinated that a doll could move on its own, make a lot of noise and stink up a room.

    • I hope you haven’t tried taking her apart to see what’s inside ; -)

      I tried to remember any of my mother’s clothes from my early years and all I could come up with was a long nightgown. But I remember it mostly because of the story that my mother told me: it was so unusual for our country and beautiful that some woman thought it was an evening gown and wore the one exactly like my mom had to an event at a restaurant.

      • That is so funny about wearing a nightgown for formal eveningwear!

        As to my sister, I didn’t try to take her apart but I wondered what that soft spot was on top of her head ;-)

        Ah, and one more memory – I was an almost accidental pyromaniac right around the time my sister was born. My dad gave me a magnifying glass and I was curious how the flame of a candle could be magnified. Thank goodness my mom was nearby and she used my pillow to snuff out the flame. For a lesson learned, I was forced to use the same scorched pillowcase (laundered regularly but discolored from the heat) for a long time.

        • My “experiments” were even deadlier: one time I decided that a power socket was a good place to put a hair-pin. I mean, I wasn’t trying to see what would happen – I just tried to use those holes to hang something on the hair-pin… My father was so happy I was alive that I wasn’t even punished.

  7. Yes, sometimes it really hurts but I find myself feeling lucky lately just being aware of the incredible friends who surround me.
    And then of course, there are all the lovely memories to think of… :)

    • I try not to concentrate on bad things – if I can. And I constantly remind myself, consciously, about all the good things, both from the past and present.

  8. I can only echo what others have said – such wonderful memories, and so beautifully conveyed. Thank you for sharing them with us. I know what you mean, too, about questioning whether you have that earliest memory. I have a similar memory, and it is odd to think my mind might be playing a trick on me.

    Your mom’s expression in that photo reminds me a bit of you; she appears to be evaluating the situation and/or the photographer with a very discerning eye! ;)

    • Thank you, Natalie.

      To tell you the truth, I think my mother just tried very hard not to close our eyes: both she and I can barely tolerate sun without sunglasses and here she probably wanted her face to be seen so she took off her sunglasses (and I didn’t have them back then and suffered!)

  9. What a beautiful post, Undina! I love how an object can be a tangible memory store. I was recently thinking about this in some other context just a few days ago..

  10. Sorry I missed this post – uncharacteristic failure of my usual notification system…;(

    Like the previous commenters, I found it very touching and poignant, especially your earliest memory (real or otherwise, it doesn’t matter) of trying to catch your mother’s attention, and your attachment to that well travelled – and worn – top and short set. I can imagine how precious such items would be, given the general scarcity of consumer goods. I must say your mother looks bang on trend in her loons and gingham shirt. I see where you get your wonderful bone structure from…

    • Thank you, Vanessa. Mom was very beautiful. When I was a little girl I thought she looked like a princess. And always wanted to have long hair like hers.

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