Maybe she was six or seven,
judging by the eye level of her mother’s dresser.
Fingering the tear-drop glass shapes,
nestled in a satin-lined box.
Old enough to know she shouldn’t touch them,
although she often did.
Old enough to sound out the words
embossed on their labels:
Evening in Paris
Perfume
Cologne
Eau de Toilette
Toilet water in a bottle?
She would puzzle the why of it.

Her parents sometimes went out to dance,
occasionally winning a plastic trophy.
Perhaps these pretty bottles were a dancing prize,
since nothing else as frivolous as this
ever adorned the worn doily on her dresser.

The girl resolved that one day,
she too would put on a swirly skirt,
and go dancing with a husband named, Dear.
And each night, just before he returned
from the place he called work,
she would leave what was simmering on the stove,
to primp before the medicine cabinet mirror,
comb her hair, fluffing the pin curls with her palms,
carefully tracing her lips with ruby red.

Years later, she would recall
those very few special occasions,
watching her mother touch her forefinger
to the mouth of her Evening in Paris bottle,
flipping it with a sensual snap
to collect a drop of precious, violet fragrance.
The magazines had advised
this was a sure way to keep your man.
She showed us she was so much more than a scent,
and her Dear would have loved her forever
if breast cancer hadn’t snatched her away before then –
before her Eau de la vie was fully spent.

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