Pickles and L’Ether de IUNX

This second guest post from Pickles told by her human was planned for almost a month ago. Then life happened. I wasn’t sure if it was too late to publish this post, but Brigitte reassured me that it was still snowing yesterday where they live. (Undina)

* * *

Hello again to my human and furry perfume pals! The part of the world where I reside experiences substantial changes in temperature throughout the four seasons so I am happy to have a warm and loving home when the thermometer drops. My friend the groundhog saw his shadow this year, which means we will probably still have more winter weather on the horizon. We’ve been experiencing some significant snow and ice storms lately. My poor nana woke up this morning to an ice covered car and driveway.

She thought it would be the perfect opportunity to pull out her Olivia Giacobetti 2003 masterpiece, L’Ether de INUX, a gift to her from a dear auntie of mine. This soft, resinous, sweet, powdery scent has an underlying presence of incense and is composed of rosewood, myrrh, benzoin, saffron, sandalwood and maple.

L'Ether de INUX

Not only does L’Ether de INUX smell amazing, but the original bottle is utterly unique. It’s shaped like a black teardrop, lays flat and the sprayer is on the tip with the button to activate the sprayer on the back of the bottle. It’s probably the most unusual bottle in my nana’s collection. And it makes a great pillow to boot.

Pickles & L'Ether de INUXWhat is your most unusual perfume bottle? What do you like to wear in the cooler weather?

Until next time, furry kisses and hugs,

Pickles Bella

Saturday Question: What Are Your Top 5 Mimosa Perfumes?

Spring is officially here, and, as I told many years ago in the Dial M for… Spring or A Perfect Mimosa post, I strongly associate mimosa and mimosa perfumes with Spring.

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #107:

What Are Your Top 5 Mimosa Perfumes?

Do you like/wear mimosa perfumes? Do you know this tree blossom smell, or is it just a note for you?

My Answer

I love-love-love mimosa as a plant, and I own and wear many mimosa perfumes. Every year I try to drive to see the mimosa tree that grows not too far from where I live around the time it blossoms. This year, when I went there, I discovered that it was heavily pruned, and the flowers below were the only ones I could get close to.

As to perfumes, these are my favorite mimosa perfumes, not in any particular order (Just in case anyone is interested in my mini-impressions for the perfumes listed below, just run a search for “mimosa” in the Past Reflections to see my 6 posts on the topic.):

Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom
Prada Infusion de Mimosa
Sonoma Scent Studio Bee’s Bliss
Amouage Love Mimosa
Givenchy Amarige Harvest Mimosa

Mimosa

What Are Your Top 5 Mimosa Perfumes?

An Evacuation Saga: From Kharkov To …

When was the last time that you had an “open-ended” trip where you would leave to somewhere without working out how you’d get there, where you’d stay, and what will happen next? I know that some young and adventurous people would do that. But I’ve never been that adventurous. So, it would be really hard for me to imagine that type of a trip even for myself – leave alone organize it for an elderly person, in another country and during a war.

It took the collective efforts of many people to make it happen. And I’m still amazed that we managed to do that. So many things came together through quick thinking, resourcefulness and sheer luck. And I’m extremely grateful to everyone who took part, directly or indirectly, in helping my friend and my vSO’s mothers to get to safety. The story below has too many details, but I just wanted to document it – probably for myself more than for you. We were “running that show” for several days straight with a couple of hours for sleep (not every night).

* * *

My MIL is pushing 80. She is not in the best health. She hasn’t traveled to anywhere outside her city in the last 30+ years and, being not vaccinated, she spent the last two years mostly in her apartment, not seeing anybody in person (with food delivered to her door and all communications done via phone or computer). Several years earlier, pre-Covid, we couldn’t persuade her to travel to one of the European countries, accompanied by my friend, to spend a week or so there with us since we couldn’t visit Ukraine because of the situation with Crimea. When the war started, our friends had offered to move her in with them into the private house in the suburb thinking that it would be easier for her to stay with someone, and the house had an independent heating system and water supply. She blatantly refused. So, it took several nights with heavy shelling and bombing that she spent sleeping in an armchair in the corridor of her apartment, away from any windows, for her to agree that it was time to leave. Coincidentally, one of our friends “from the previous life”, K., who currently resides in Germany, found herself in the same situation: her mother was stuck in the same city, and K. with her husband Y. were trying everything they could think of to bring her to Germany.

On March 2nd, we combined our efforts and started looking into what could be done. Half-World away and with a 9-10-hours time difference, it wouldn’t have been easy even in better times – let alone during a war. It’s hard to imagine the helplessness one experiences trying to figure out the logistics of what we were trying to accomplish. We needed to get our moms all the way from Kharkiv to Lviv and from there to Poland. It’s more than 1000 km/600 miles.

Map of Ukraine

Trains. They do run, and they are free, but one needs to:

  • get to the train station (public transportation doesn’t work; some taxis theoretically are available but they are hard to get one for when you need them; volunteers who help people to get to the train station can be found online via Telegram chats, again, theoretically, but it feels like there are more people who need a ride than those who can help, so nothing is guaranteed)
  • get through the crowd of other people waiting for the evacuation (the picture below is actually from the train station in Kharkov one of these days)

Kharkov Train Station Evacuation March 2022

  • travel to the border for 15+ hours standing or sitting on the floor, and then somehow get across the border – either on another train or somehow else. We knew our mothers wouldn’t survive that.

Evacuation Train in Ukraine

Private cars. We tried. R., a friend who by that time had left Kharkov but was still in Ukraine helping people, as a volunteer, to move to safety, tried to help. Through his channels, we offered to pay thousands of dollars for the ride from the house to the border. We couldn’t find any takers.

The last option left was a bus. It was still a long trip, and we needed to get both women to that bus, but at least a seat was guaranteed, and buses were supposed to go to the border.

When I say “bus,” I do not mean an organized bus station with a timetable and known routes. You need to find who offers such a bus, get on the list and arrive at the departure location in time. We tried but couldn’t find a bus to Lviv, the city on the border with Poland. Our friends from Germany suggested an alternative plan: to get our mothers to another city, Dnipro, that at least wasn’t being bombed at that time (220 km/137 miles). And from there to the border they hoped to get help from another mutual friend, S.

My close school friend, L., from Hungary to where she had evacuated a week earlier, through the volunteer organization where she used to work helped us to find potential seats on the bus to Dnipro the next morning. Our moms were supposed to be ready but whether they got those seats would have been known just a couple of hours before the departure, and L. was supposed to wait for the call from that organization to coordinate. We agreed to assume that we got those seats, and the same friend helped to find a volunteer who would take both women to the bus.

Since nothing was certain, we kept looking for other options. A friend here, in the US, sent me a FB link for the buss being organized by several guys from Israel. That bus was supposed to go from our city to Lviv and then to the border. I knew nothing about those people, and not too many details were provided (with those buses, you give the name of the passenger and a phone, and at some point someone might call you. Or not), but I signed up both moms for that bus as well, and told my MIL to say “yes” if they call.

At the same time, K. & Y. (a daughter of the second mom and her husband) found co-workers of S. (the friend who was initially supposed to help with the evacuation from Dnipro) who were leaving for Dnipro in a car and agreed to take our moms with them.

It seemed like a better idea than a potential bus ride to the same city, so we agreed to change the plans. I started helping my MIL to pack her things for the trip. Mostly to keep her mind off what was happening and what was coming but also to make sure she wouldn’t forget something essential (like documents, water or toilet paper). While all the people mentioned above were calling each other connecting dots of that trip, my MIL was tasked with writing down a list of things to take with her, I did my own list, then we compared them and figured out what could be left behind. It was good that we had just hours to make those decisions, otherwise, it would have been even more nerve-wracking.

As the morning of the departure was nearing, we discovered that there was no real plan of how S. would actually help our moms once they get to Dnipro (he wasn’t in that city himself). From the vague but comforting initial plan that our moms would be taken care of by those co-workers until S. helps us to transport them further (that was what we got from K. & Y. when we started planning the trip; we were so busy organizing the departure that we haven’t questioned their further plan), it somehow transformed into the idea (coming from S.) that moms would need to get to the railway station in Dnipro and … get on the train to Lviv… My vSO and I realized that the situation would probably be worse, not better: without bombing (as a plus), but not knowing anybody in that city, not having anywhere to go and probably facing the same situation with getting on the train (which was confirmed later by the news) and a similar distance to travel.

As my vSO and I were discussing our options thinking that we would probably have to cancel that trip, the organizers of the Israeli bus to Lviv called my MIL and asked if she was coming. Since at that moment she still thought she was going in a car, she didn’t know what to say, so she told him that she needed to ask us. He promised to call back. She called us, we told her that she should have agreed to it, and we started waiting for the bus people to call. They weren’t calling back.

In a panic, I started looking for people who knew these guys in Israel, found and contacted one of them via WhatsApp, explained that the MIL was confused and that she and her friend did want to go and were ready. It was a one-sided contact, he hadn’t acknowledged the communication there. But within the next hour, he called back to my MIL, confirmed that she and the second mom were on the list, and gave her instructions as to where to be and when.

It took us a while to persuade K. & Y. to abandon the initial car plan and move to this one. Ironically, K.’s mom, when she got a call earlier from the same organizers, immediately told them that she wasn’t going (since she thought that they would be going by that friends’ car) – and hadn’t even mentioned it to her daughter until all that came up. So, for a while, our friends weren’t sure which came last – the confirmation from my MIL for 2 people of the rejection from their mom. But finally, we decided that Lviv was a better option (our friend Y. confessed later that he spent another couple of hours to contact that organizer and get a final confirmation that their mother was on the list before he canceled the car ride).

And then we were waiting for the morning to get a confirmation from the volunteer driver found by my friend L. that he would be there in time to take our moms to the bus. While we waited, we found 2 backup plans from other friends “on the ground” – in case the driver wouldn’t be able to come. But it worked out with that volunteer who was ready to do it completely free of charge. We persuaded him to take money – for gas for future rides. And since it was cold (-1C/+30F), we asked him not to just drop the moms off at the location for the bus but wait until they were safely inside.

That was a lucky idea because one of the two buses suddenly required some repair, and the departure was postponed for almost 3 hours. Most people were waiting on the street or hiding in the nearby subway vestibule (not much warmer), so it was great that the driver stayed, which allowed our moms to sit in a warm car (though, after they got cold having spent some time next to the first bus, hoping that they would be let in).

Evacuation BusIt wasn’t a good start. I tried contacting the organizers to make them let people in the second bus – at least to get warm, rotating people inside and outside. They didn’t want to do it because the two groups were separate, and the list of who goes where was with the second bus. Our driver needed to go (he had the next important trip to make taking someone to a hospital), so he wouldn’t have stayed for money (he was a volunteer). But he took pity on elderly women and waited until, finally, the second bus arrived, and everyone got in. Through my friend L., I sent him twice as much money as we initially planned to donate. We were extremely thankful to him.

And the trip began.

There was a WhatsApp group created for those who traveled on those buses. Since neither of the moms had that app, we persuaded organizers to add us to the group hoping to be getting any updates on their progress. We pleaded with the passengers to periodically publish any updates… Nope. Not a word. During the night, we didn’t want to call – not to disturb anyone. And when my friend K. called her mother in the morning and asked where they were, she got an unexpected response that it was a secret. She decided that her mother wasn’t completely herself because of the stress, and we were joking among ourselves that it was a covert Mossad bus…

For all we know, it was! When we finally learned that they were approaching Lviv and shared it with some of our friends, they couldn’t believe it because they knew people who left a day earlier either by car or by bus and were still on the road. But together with the relief from the long leg of the trip being over, an unpleasant realization dawned on us: the organizers haven’t really worked it out (or properly conveyed to us) how the next, not less important part of crossing the border would happen. Initially, we were told that there will be another bus, local, going across the border. But somehow that part wasn’t happening, and after dropping off some of the travelers in Lviv, the bus was taking the rest of the group to the border crossing point planning to leave them there. At night. With the above-mentioned -1C/+30F. In the queue of 2,000 (TWO THOUSAND!) pedestrians, according to the official FB page (see the screenshot below). On foot, without any heat, cover or restrooms for hours.Ukraine-Poland Border Crossing

We started panicking: we didn’t think our mothers would survive that night. Looking at the same information, we noticed that there were other crossing points with fewer pedestrians. We had no idea if those were real numbers, where those crossing points were or whether those even had a crossing for pedestrians. We did some investigation and figured out that it was likely that the place marked in green on the picture above actually had the necessary crossing with a shorter line.

The organizer from Israel didn’t know the driver’s phone number, so we called my MIL, she gave her phone to the driver – but he didn’t want even to talk to the organizer (or didn’t believe that he was talking to him). Then through the organizer, we connected with a man who was previously traveling on one of these buses but stayed in Lviv (he was too young to be let out of the country) but whose mother was still on that bus. Being one of the more active and personable travelers (he maintained the connection with the organizer), he managed to establish some type of relationship with the driver of the bus during the trip and knew his direct phone number. So, he called the driver and persuaded him to accept financial incentives we were offering (luckily, before the war started, we managed to send enough money to my MIL, and she had them right there – many people hadn’t) and drive everyone on that bus for 3 more hours to that next crossing point (and this active guy’s mom got all the passengers to agree to this new plan).

During those 3 hours, there were several more ups and downs (including those for my blood pressure), but I’ll skip those details because, in the end, it all worked out: the line on that crossing point went through the border much faster, and not counting the first 20-30 minutes, it went inside heated tents.

So, less than 3 hours after being dropped off by the bus, our moms were on the Polish side, where our friend Y. with his brother were already waiting for them after driving all the way from Dusseldorf. The picture below shows people coming out on the Polish side taken from where our friends were waiting. Our moms didn’t even have to walk this part: they got a ride from border guards to where our friends could pick them up with their car.

Smilnizya Crossing Point

* * *

My MIL is now in Germany. We do not know how long she’ll have to stay there. We’re doing everything we can to bring her to the US, but at this point, we found ourselves in legal limbo: to get the US visa (which she could through family-based immigration since my vSO is a US citizen), she would need a valid Ukrainian travel passport, which she doesn’t have; Ukrainian consulates in Germany have officially stopped issuing those because of the war situation; we have no idea how long it might go on. But even after it ends, we don’t think my vSO’s mother would be able to go back, because, as we learned from her neighbor, her flat became uninhabitable the next day after she left: as the result of the shelling, central heating system on the roof was damaged, and all flats underneath got flooded with the hot water. And since she has no other relatives back there, I don’t think it would be possible to restore it for her – with all the destruction that has already happened in the city. So, we’ll just have to keep trying to resolve this conundrum. But at least she’s not being bombed. Yet.

* * *

The regular Saturday Question post will be published later than usual, but it is coming.

Saturday Question: What Spring Perfumes Do You Look Forward To Wearing?

I remember that I promised to share more details on the operation “Moms’ Evacuation,” but I’m still dealing with too much to finish the story – I will. Meanwhile, let’s talk perfumes – shall we?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #106:

What Spring Perfumes Do You Look Forward To Wearing?

I know that it’s not Spring yet in many places. But it is getting warmer, and you can feel at least a promise of Spring. Unless you’re in the different hemisphere – then you’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

Are there any perfumes that you rarely wear in different seasons but enjoy wearing specifically in Spring?

My Answer

Our weather suddenly went haywire: it was quite warm for the last week or so (21C/69F), so we were in our Spring already; tomorrow it promises to be much cooler (13C/56F); and by Tuesday they promise almost summer (24C/76F). I was preoccupied with… life, so I missed the change of the season. And now suddenly I realized that I might not get that much time to wear all those perfumes that I love wearing specifically in Spring.

Chanel No 19 extrait and EdT – both are Spring perfume for me. I can wear them all-year-round but usually don’t.

Guerlain Chamade extrait is also one of those that I prefer wearing that time of the year.

Sonoma Scent Studio Wood Violet smells great on my skin in Spring, and I almost dislike it in all other seasons.

Guerlain Chamade and Chanel No 19

 

What Spring Perfumes Do You Look Forward To Wearing?

Saturday Question: What Single Perfume Would You Take With You?

We had an extremely stressful week. Tomorrow I’ll publish a detailed account of the events not to keep doing it again and again in private emails to those who were asking me about the situation. But today I decided not to skip the Saturday Question and instead use what has happened as an invitation to discuss the topic.

* * *

With the aggressor bombing Kharkov, the city I was born and grew up in, at some point it became clear that we had to evacuate my vSO’s mother.

Talking on the phone, I was helping my MIL to pack her things for the trip. Since she has not traveled in decades, she didn’t even have a suitcase. So, for the (most likely) one-way trip, leaving everything behind forever, we had to figure out the absolute minimum that she could take with her in a largish bag she had, as a “single small luggage item” she was allowed. It is still winter in Ukraine, so she needed to bring some warm clothes, as well as medicine, water and food for the road. So, there wasn’t much else she could take with her from her previous life. I suggested taking a couple of pictures of her late husband and any jewelry with sentimental value. She isn’t a perfume lover, so the question of perfume didn’t come up.

I tried to imagine what I would have done in this awful situation. Having very limited space, leaving everything behind and running for my life, what one bottle from my collection, if any, would I have taken with me?

 

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #105:

What Single Perfume Would You Take With You?

Hoping to never find ourselves in such circumstances and not playing our usual perfumistas’ games of creative counting or sneaking in some extras, being brutally honest: having 5 minutes to decide and extremely limited space, knowing that you would never get back, do you think that you would have taken with you any one of your perfumes? If yes, which one and why? If not, why?

My Answer

Even without having to move, I was so busy coordinating the evacuation and under such enormous stress that for several days I didn’t even think about perfumes. But once my MIL got to safety, I immediately went back to wearing perfumes. This tells me that my love for perfume is very deep, and even in such a horrible situation, not having anything with me at all, once I had calmed down a little, would have added to my unhappiness. So, if I had a chance (and not all people in Ukraine do – some have to leave their houses to hide just to come back to the black hole in the building where their apartment was), I would have taken with me a small bottle of my all-time perfume love, Climat by Lancome. Probably not even to wear, at least initially, but to be able to smell something that I loved back when my previous life wasn’t shattered by the crazy egomaniac.

Lancome Climat

How about you?

What Single Perfume Would You Take With You?

Not The Regularly Scheduled Programming

For about a day, I thought that I would still be able to run the regular Saturday Question. Then, as the madness of what is happening in Ukraine increased, for a short period of time I contemplated asking Portia or one of my other guest writers to do it since I just couldn’t bring myself to be chatting about even such a joyful and positive topic as perfumes. And then I decided that since most of my blog’s readers are my friends or people who come here not just to be entertained, I would not pretend that it’s “business as usual”: our family, our friends and co-workers are there; we do not know what happens to them tomorrow… or in the following year, whatever this war results in. I still can’t completely believe that this is happening.

We grew up with a particular war mythology. It doesn’t really matter whether it was a complete truth (it wasn’t), but it had the right connotation and moral. Our country lost dozens of millions of people in the WWII, but it was a just war in which we defended ourselves and didn’t really have a choice.

I cannot believe that the nation that survived that war, lived through and overcame Stalinism and finally disillusioned in socialism, just 30 years later became that World bully who disrespects not only that World or neighboring countries but even its own people who risking their lives protest this abomination.

These are photos of the city where I was born. Kharkov (as I knew it) or Kharkiv (from the Ukrainian spelling). It hasn’t been occupied as of now, but the fight is happening very close to the city limits. Our relatives and friends report explosions. Many spent a night in subway stations or basements sheltering from shelling. I’m so worried about all the people I know… and about those whom I don’t. A war is scary. It kills. It maims. And more than in one sense.

In many situations, there are two (or more) sides to the story. Not for me, not in this case. There will be absolutely no discussion on this blog about any merits for this monster’s actions. So, if anyone feels differently, let’s just calmly part our ways: you are either with me on the issue, or you do not comment.

Saturday Question: What Is Your Most Calming Perfume?

In our lives, we all go through periods of anxiety, uncertainty and disturbance – be that of an internal nature or imposed by circumstances. Can perfume help? Or is it better to stay away from favorites (not to associate them with those times) and avoid the rest (not to contribute to the general annoyance)?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #104:

What Is Your Most Calming Perfume?

Do you have a perfume that in your mind would have a positive calming and relaxing effect on you?

My Answer

I started thinking about this because the last couple of weeks weren’t the easiest for me, and at some point, I felt like perfume (or maybe just trying to choose what to wear) was contributing to my general unease. In such minutes I didn’t want to wear anything “loud,” edgy or too original. I wanted something pleasant and uncomplicated…

The answer I came up with surprised me: Tauer‘s limited edition When We Cuddle And I Can Smell My Perfume On Your Clothes. With one of the most bizarre names and absolutely non-perfume bottle, I would have never tried it in the first place if it weren’t for my friend and perfume twin hajusuuri who shared with me a decant. I liked it right away, it didn’t take me years. But it wasn’t fast enough: it was sold out and disappeared. But I really enjoy this almost simplistic blend of vanilla, benzoin, musk, patchouli and amber. I’m not sure if it calms me down, but it definitely doesn’t irritate me or make me think about the scent I’m wearing.

Rusty and I

How about you?

What Is Your Most Calming Perfume?

Saturday Question: What Perfume Do You Wear For Your Birthdays?

I love my birthdays. Always did. And I hope to keep loving them – at least until my heath allows me to enjoy them, and I have around people who I want to enjoy them with. And since today is my birthday, I decided it would be fitting to run this SQ poll.

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #103:

What Perfume Do You Wear For Your Birthdays?

Do you have perfume(s) that you always wear for your birthday? Or do you get new perfumes as a gift (from yourself or others) and wear them? Or maybe it’s just a random choice every time?

My Answer

In the past 11 years, most often I wore Ormonde Jayne Ta’if. Just on a couple of occasions I chose something different.

This year I’m celebrating my birthday during three days (why not, right?), so I will wear Ta’if for one of them. But for today I picked another perfume. Puredistance No 12. Why? It feels appropriate to wear perfume named No 12 on February 12th. And it fits perfectly for the planed activity: a food/wine pairing at one of my favorite wineries.

Puredistance No 12 is so elegant and well-behaved that I’m sure it won’t distract me or anyone around from enjoying other aromas that will be in the center of the experience.

I’m not sure if you’ve seen the list of notes for this perfume: it’s extensive. And I cannot make out a single one of them! No 12 is so perfectly blended that all I can smell is a wonderfully smooth and creamy woody-vanilla combination with a hint of florals. It reminds me of my another long-standing favorite – Amouage Ubar, but even smoother and more nuanced, if it’s even possible (I checked: tested in parallel, they are quite different, and I love both). For me it is hauntingly beautiful, and it feels like a perfect choice for a special day.

Puredistance No12

What Perfume Do You Wear For Your Birthdays?

Scent Semantics #4: TASTE

Today is the forth episode of the collaboration of six bloggers: Portia (A Bottled Rose), Elena (The Plum Girl), Sheila (Alembicated Genie), Daisy (eau là là !), Old Herbaceous (Serenity Now Scents and Sensibilities) and Undina (Undina’s Looking Glass).

Most of you probably already know that, but just a quick explanation for the project: once a month one of us selects a word (any part of speech, no guidelines), and we all try to find and describe a perfume association that we come up with. The initial idea was to choose just one perfume, but it was a guideline, not a strict rule – so, anything goes.Scent Semantics Project Banner

* * *

This month’s word is: TASTE

Finally, we’ve got a word that was along the line of what I expected when we were discussing the collaboration. I mean, not this specific word, but the form. In my mind, the words we would be choosing were nouns, singular. Why? Because that was how it was traditionally done for crossword puzzles in my native language. I’ve never got used to the local way of using different word forms, and The New York Times crosswords have never made sense to me. So, it was a noun! Has it made it easier? Nope. Had I known in advance that we’d have this word, I would have saved Angel Taste of Fragrance for today. And it would have been very fitting both to the topic and the occasion of honoring Mugler‘s memory. But I “used” it up already for one of the previous episodes. (Interestingly, Mugler’s Angel was the first perfume that kept popping up in my head in response to each next word offered for the project. Think of it, isn’t it “brave,” “angelic” and “luscious”? And, as the first gourmand, of course, I could make parallels with “taste.”) So, since the simple route wasn’t available any longer, I kept thinking about it, and as the result, I came up with a story that takes a somewhat unexpected twist on the topic. (And you tell me if reading this month’s word you expected anything like that.)

* * *

I don’t remember exactly how young I was: it was during my middle school, age before any dating started (at least customary for that time and place), but with romantic feelings in their pre-blooming phase and the onset of the relationships building.  When thinking about this time, I imagine characters from the King‘s book It or the recent TV show Stranger Things. While reading the story below, it is important to remember that we were children/pre-teens.

N. was one grade above me. He wasn’t a bad boy (I’ve never been attracted to those) but rather an artistic type. I remember that he had a good voice and impossibly beautiful brown eyes. I wasn’t interested in him (at that time I was still unrequitedly in love with my classmate), but he started demonstrating some interest in me: I would be catching his gaze at me in the school corridors during the breaks.

Back then and there, you would expect a boy to look away once his glance was “caught,” if he was shy, or a girl to avert her eyes pretending not to notice the attention (a ritual of submissive modesty). N. wasn’t shy. And I’ve never been submissive. So, once I realized that he was staring, I took it as a challenge and stared back. It became a game for the next several months. I don’t remember if we had any other communications, but any day when our scheduled classes happen to be on the same floor, we would engage in the eye “sparring.” Additional points went to the one who didn’t blink first during those encounters. I was still sweet on my classmate, but these silent duels became a part of my daily routine boosting my self-confidence and raising my status among my girlfriends.

After the end of the school year, we had a couple of weeks of strange semi-compulsory activities: children from all classes from one or two grades were bussed to a summer camp outside of the city where we would do some agriculture work for several hours in the morning and then have sports, music and other group activities in the evening. My main romantic interest’s parents managed to excuse him from these exercises, but most of my friends were going to be there, so I didn’t mind going. And I was pleased to find out that N. was also on that trip: our silent matches would continue!

But suddenly something unexpected happened: within a day or two, N. joined a small group (6-7 girls and boys, my class-mates) that we formed at the camp (which was quite unusual since he was older – so, the boys from our group were happy to include him and girls didn’t mind either), then he completely lost any interest in me and switched his full attention to another girl from our group, V. I watched him performing the same routine of watching her attentively, catching her eyes and making sure she notices this. And it was all intensified by the fact that we were spending most of the time together.

I was crushed and confused, both by what was happening and my reaction to it. I knew that I wasn’t romantically interested in him, and going out with him wasn’t in my plans or dreams. But he was my admirer! And suddenly he wasn’t. I was hurting. And the worst part was that saving my pride, I had to hide those feelings. I remember that all I wanted was to get back home or at least to spend some time alone to cry. Ironically, I had so many friends in my class, that I just couldn’t get any time on my own: someone would immediately join me. So, I pretended that nothing had happened and kept spending time in that group with my ex-admirer, V. who had quickly fallen for his charm, and the boys who were clearly impressed by his maturity and bravery to express his feelings. Every evening, we would gather on the porch of one of the cabins where we stayed, play some games, laugh and sing. N. had a great voice. And he would sing with us, but you could tell that he was singing for V. while not taking off his beautiful brown eyes of her. And she looked beautiful and happy. If I’m not mistaken, their relationships progressed to the public hand-holding territory.

And then V. got sick, and her parents took her home several days before the end of the camp. That’s where the next chapter started. I did mention that V. was an artistic type, right? He was publicly suffering in such a way that we all, including me who came to terms with his change of heart, my other girlfriends and our boys, were sympathizing with him and trying to cheer him up. He was sighing, singing sad songs (especially the one that, by coincidence, had the name V. in it, which he previously sang to V.) and even holding a scarf she forgot when leaving. And then, as the oldest of us all, one evening he announced that he needs to drink (to drown his sorrows, I think, though don’t remember). Not only at that age, but for several years after that none of us, most likely, drank anything (unless trying something at home from the parents’ glasses). And of course, there was absolutely no alcohol at the camp. But.

In the country where I grew up, there was a well-known phenomenon of drinking surrogate alcohol. Of course, it was something in which people engaged when they didn’t have other choices (e.g., alcoholics or people in incarceration), and not only for us, children from good families, but in general for the majority of the population, it was something from the marginal subculture. But we all knew about it. So, when N. proudly produced a bottle of the aftershave (I’m not sure why he had it with him – I don’t think he was even shaving yet), none of us was really surprised.

Wars AftershaveThis is not the exact bottle of what he had (his one was blue if I’m not mistaken), but it’s the closest I could find online. Back then it was a hard(er) to get aftershave from Poland, so on its own, it was impressive. I don’t remember what was used instead of a shot glass, I just know that we didn’t drink it from the bottle itself.

I was the only girl in our group who made a sip or two of that blue liquid. I’m not sure what I was trying to prove, but for some reason it was important to me not to blink, so to speak, in that strange game. I had nothing less exotic to compare that WARS aftershave to, but it tasted yucky – about which we all agreed. But we all felt a little proud of being such a badass. And I think it did cheer up N a little.

* * *

Over the next two months of the summer break I completely forgot about N. When we came back to school, I noticed that N. and V. did not have any communications any longer, but I’ve never learned what had happened (if anything). And when during one of the bus trips where, for whatever reason, N. was again a part of our group, we started singing that song, I was watching N. and V.: he was completely nonchalant, and she was obviously hurting. His parents moved soon, so he transferred to another school, and I’ve never met him either as a teenager or adult. I wonder who he grew up to be.

* * *

I had never tried to drink another cologne or perfume since, but I think I still can imagine that taste.

Saturday Question: What Do You Consider A Decant?

There are almost no doubts when it comes to full bottles. I say “almost” because I could never figure out how to classify 10-15 ml bottles of pure parfums. But other than that, it’s clear. Travel bottles are also self-explanatory. But what about decants?

Saturday Question on Undina's Looking Glass

Saturday Question #102:

What Do You Consider A Decant?

Clearly, any amount of perfume transferred from the original brand’s bottle into a generic vessel is a decant by definition. But on your personal scale, where does the demarcation line go between a sample and a decant?

My Answer

When I tried to answer my own question, I realized that my logic isn’t that straightforward. In my perfume database, everything under 2 ml I classify as a small sample; 2 ml+ is marked as a large sample; 5ml and up is a small decant; and everything 10 ml and above is a large decant.

But when talking to others, I consider 2.5 ml and below as a sample, and everything larger is a decant (terminology-wise, I always try to talk in ml).

Is it important? Not on its own, though from my experience I learned that when dealing with others, it might be useful to establish a common ground. I remember how many years ago I was swapping perfumes with another perfumista. It wasn’t a formal swap but rather a friendly exchange of perfumes one of us had and another wanted to try. So, we didn’t do any usual dance people do for a formal swap. We just discussed what we would exchange, the word “dacant” was used during email communications, and then packages went to their destinations. It was one of the first few perfume exchanges I’d done ever. So, I carefully decanted and packed several 4-5 ml spray bottles with perfumes we discussed and was eagerly awaiting for the package with treasures for me. Back then, my collection was much smaller, and I was regularly wearing perfumes from samples/decants. So, you can imagine my disappointment when I unpacked 4 or 5 half-full 1 ml dabbers. In my swapping pal’s defense, she was coming from the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab World where, as I know, it was customary to exchange 0.2-0.3 ml (since those were oils sold in small bottles to start with).

Since then, I always talk milliliters, even though now if I exchange anything with anyone, it’s with people to whom I don’t mind sending samples/decants without getting anything in return, so terminology is immaterial. Ironically, these days I prefer getting 0.7-1 ml samples for most perfumes I want to try and rarely 2.5-3 ml decants of those that I consider buying but want to wear a couple of times first.

What Do You Consider A Decant?