Afterhour Magic

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Being apart from Mum is hard – but I’ve found a way to bring her close during lockdown

After years of anxiety, the idea of not being able to see my mum because of coronavirus was unbearable. Then I found a bottle of her scent

Over the past 27 years, my mum has been by my side through thick and thin. She is my best friend, my inspiration and my rock.

I live with my husband, but my pre-Covid-19 days were regularly filled with quality mother-daughter time. We would travel to work together, grab a bite to eat in between meetings, and every Tuesday night, we’d go ice skating together at Alexandra Palace, in north London, sharing a passion she passed down to me. But most importantly, my mum has accompanied me on my anxiety journey.

For the past eight years, I’ve suffered with general anxiety disorder, which although controllable with certain techniques, has meant panic attacks, irrational fears and a lot of crying in my mum’s arms. But knowing that she has been present through my challenges and self-help discoveries has always filled me with calm.

When lockdown started, my heart sank: I knew I wouldn’t be able to see her. Suddenly, instead of our uplifting face-to-face conversations, I found myself offloading my coronavirus anxiety, intense claustrophobia and sleep deprivation on to her via FaceTime.

Last week, having significantly more time on my hands than usual, I decided to sort out my perfume cupboard, reordering my bottles into fragrance families – the florals I would one day wear to summer events, the aquatic beach scents I would sport on future holidays and, last, my everyday picks. I enjoyed spraying these and escaping lockdown life, if only for a few hours.

Despite being a fragrance fanatic, I have not been spritzing my signature scents much during lockdown. Maybe because I’ve not felt myself lately or perhaps it’s just not felt appropriate to spray perfume each morning: it feels like the equivalent of wearing a full face of makeup to a sombre event.

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As I scanned the fragrances I once obsessed over, I felt empty and disoriented. Then, reaching for the back of the cupboard, I picked out a bottle I had never opened.

It was my mother’s perfume, L’Occitane Néroli & Orchidée Eau de Toilette, in its elegant bottle complete with a pink bow. I remembered she had picked it up for me and shamefully I had never used it.

Sitting on the floor and spraying it on to my wrist, I immediately felt my mother’s presence. Memories came flooding back of baking cookies in the kitchen, walks in flower gardens and ice-skating together on a lake in Austria.

It’s known that fragrance has a unique ability to uplift and encourage happiness as our brain associates certain smells with positive associations and emotions, but I was stunned to feel the warmth and comfort of my mum’s embrace after just one spritz.

Since then, I have been wearing her fragrance every day, topping up every few hours and inhaling deeply. In lockdown, fragrance has become less of a luxury product and more of a therapeutic go-to that feeds my soul. It’s an invisible connection to her in a bottle.

Not only has this new perfume routine worked for me, but it’s also put me in a more positive space to start and finish the day. Wearing my mother’s perfume has brought me closer to her than ever before and given me a glimpse of hope.