inhale deeply, the heady scent of my mum’s perfume envelopes me and takes me back nearly twenty years. The musky essence of her perfume left in her adire boubou wafting up at me. This indigo and white boubou in truly adorable motifs that is now worn for wear. A favorite outfit she had left behind in my residence after a visit which I have now inherited after her passing many years ago. My favorite sit at home outfit. My emotional treasure. It is uncanny that many years after her death, I can still invoke her memory, her presence and her very essence by adorning this dress. It was my mother’s everyday dress, this simple adire boubou, she had quite a few in her collection, all with different unforgettable motifs. I can see her, her smile warming up to me as I walk towards her, her nimble fingers peeling the egusi seeds before her on the table, her nose shows off little seeds of garden eggs, something she snacked on as if it were the most expensive caviar in the world.” Eugenia,” I hear her voice in a chuckle, her Ha, Ha, laughter if I tell her something funny in our countless conversations. The musky scent of her perfume brings my mum back to me, her memory fresh as if she were here and now.
Mrs Josephine Amodu, the essential mother, a woman like no other, the best mum ever lives in my heart and is constant in my memory. Every day reminds me of her. The aroma of a sizzling Egusi soup, the wafting sumptuous aroma of a sun dried tomato stew garnished with fresh peppers and onions gets me each time and can easily reduce me to tears or give off a warm tingling feeling in my heart. It is Mama Eucharia’s culinary prowess. No one can really come close, but many family members she mentored all try to capture that hint of her cooking. The aroma remains the same. The taste however, try as we may still slightly below par, but it is hard to tell if you were not as close as I was. With these amazing soup aromas, MrsAmodu returns to my kitchen, standing at the doorway, ladle in hand, placing her top level cooked egusi soup in the palms of her grandchildren gathered around for the ritual of taste which is inherently African. Everyone is smacking their lips, joyful and skipping along. Mrs Amodu returns to her cooking, a glint in her eye satisfied that she has secured the validation of her grandchildren to continue her cooking.
A new baby’s smell, that burb mixed with baby cream- smell reminds me of my mum because she came for every child, all six of them and helped with baby duties, diaper changing, baby bathing, body massage and soapy baths for me. Every visit I make today to a new Mum brings back those memories, those aromas of soaps and body oils and baby cream, of my mother making a youthful mother of me, asking me to suck in my tummy so I can remain young forever. All those pepper soups with the most amazing spices and body massages paid off Mum. Your grandchildren are grown and some people say I can still stop traffic. Lol. It is all thanks to you Mum. I can still perceive the great aroma of your pepper soup, smoke fish, crayfish and all and the invigorating aroma of eucalyptus oil and also Robb for tired feet and aching backs.
Memory is one of the most important human attributes and it is to good memories we go when we are depressed or when life throws us a whack. Chilean award winning author Isabelle Allende writing in one of her most hilarious and powerful books, Aphrodite, remembers that her first kiss with a boy was on a boat with lots of shrimps aboard. It was a fishing boat. Every time she perceives the smell of fresh shrimps today, she remembers that first kiss.
The olfactory sense is one of the strongest of the human senses. Science has proven that a sense of smell is important even for tracking one’s lifestyle. The familiar smell of toast, the aroma of sizzling dodo, the impenetrable aroma of a good gbegiri and amala and that of the almighty jollof rice cooked by a Nigerian.
My keen sense of smell and the deduction of all things great in perfumery was developed by my Dad, the incredible Mr Alfred Amodu who has since passed. I was twelve when he began to gift me with designer perfumes. As a result, I could always tell for a long time what perfume friends and family were wearing. Even the cocktails could not escape my nose and I could easily tell you which two perfumes you combined. It was something I terribly enjoyed and still do. As a perfume aficionado today, thanks Dad, my perfume wardrobe is unflappable. I collect some of the finest and enjoy being a perfume mixer in the privacy of my bedroom.The ones he bought for me at twelve are my favorites and I still go to the ends of the earth to find them, a lingering memory of my Dad.
Our favorite smells, scents, aromas and perceptions come from a deep emotional place and reminds us of amazing things in our past, a person that has impacted us or a place that holds memories of the sea and the sand, of a country as beautiful as ours or a far flung Island where the smell of water never leaves you. It is given to us to remember things through a sense of smell even when we shut our eyes.
My Mum’s boubou lies casually on a bedroom chair as I write my column this week, my mother’s ringing laughter tucked in its seams.
Happy Mother’s day.