There are all these studies about how scents are so strongly tied to feelings and memories that they can instantly evoke a sense of place or time in people, and for most of us that’s absolutely true. I can’t walk into a Bath & Body Works without flashbacks of my college dorm room. And lately Jordan’s been wearing the same cologne he used to wear when we started dating and I feel like I’m in the earliest version of our relationship from eight years ago.
Knowing this, I’m always trying to evoke atmosphere and moods in our home through scents. I was thrilled when I saw these Stella Mare candles at the Bristol Farms near our house. I can’t use most candles I love because they’re not non-toxic with a lead-free wick – but these are! And they come in all these amazing ‘flavors’ like Minted Grapefruit and Guava Coconut. I bought a lavender one for my office and it totally works in mellowing me out. Sometimes I even walk with it through my boss’ office to help spread the calming vibes (when my boss is not there, obvs).
Anyways I just had to get the Gardenia scent. I can’t tell you what gardenias smell like offhand, but I can tell you that I cannot hear or even read the word “gardenia” without triggering Ibrahim Ferrer’s voice in the song “Dos Gardenias Para Ti.” Ferrer was the frontman of the wildly popular Buena Vista Social Club whose voice was on heavy rotation in my household all throughout high school. When it wasn’t the Buena Vista Social Club, it was Sade’s Love Deluxe or Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. These were the soundtracks to our family dinners. Maybe not ideal, but they were hip enough and calm enough to keep the peace between all of us at the table who had strong opinions about the choice of background music at any given time. (Music selection was such an issue in fact that I still think my step dad only pretended to like smooth jazz just to irritate me. It totally worked.)
All this to say that I’ve had this song stuck in my head for weeks now:
In college I was lucky enough to get to meet Ibrahim, his wife and his son after a concert. My girlfriend and I befriended a few of his people after the show, and before we knew it we were shaking hands with the family in their hotel room. Ibrahim was already in his pajamas and his wife waived to us from underneath the covers of her hotel bed. It was very sweet and the last time I ever saw him in person.
Now my gardenia candle brings back all these old memories. I bought a second one last weekend to make sure they last a little bit longer.