Of Lavender and Friendship

Some of my favorite things in life are things I used to hate.  Peanut butter.  Stand-up comedy.  Ricotta cheese.

Lavender.

I used to hate all floral aromas.  I have allergies, so when I step outside and smell springy flowers everywhere, that’s a big gigantic red flag to me.  Hello, hay fever.  Goodbye, nose breathing.  In high school and college, I was into perfumes, but I was strictly a citrus fruits and herbals kind of girl.  Floral scents just screamed “grandma” to me.  I had a few friends who went for more traditional perfumes and I just didn’t get it.  The scent I hated more than any other?  Rose.  A close second?  Lavender.  Give me a bright grapefruit or a fresh grass aroma any day.  Florals?  Ick.

My BFF, R, was one of those girls who has loved a good floral perfume as long as I’ve known her.  R and I have a lot in common – we both love tea, yoga, miso soup, France…  But there are some things that R likes that I just can’t quite wrap my mind around.  Zucchini.  Snoop Dogg.  Shooting ranges.  Butterflies.  And for awhile, lavender was on that list.  R loved it, but the very idea made me gag.  I often gave her lavender-scented lotions, scrubs or bath salts as a gift.  She was thrilled to get them, and I’d just ask her not to open them up too close to me… because yech.  (In return, she’d gift me with products scented with orange, grapefruit, ginger.)

After college, R and I went our separate ways, and I mean we really went our separate ways.  I moved to Washington, D.C., for law school.  R joined the Peace Corps and jetted off to Africa.  We kept in touch via letters (hers left her village on the back of a camel) but it wasn’t the same.  I had a very full life: a cute fiance, a wedding to plan, great new law school friends and a full schedule of 1L classes… but without R, I felt like a piece of myself was missing.  The day we met up again after almost two years, shortly after she returned from Africa (she came home early to be in my wedding) was one of the happiest days of my life.  After my wedding, R moved to Florida for law school and while it wasn’t the same as college (when we were basically inseparable), at least I could call her on the phone whenever I wanted – and I did.  We talked almost every day.  I visited her in Florida and later in New York, and she visited me in Virginia.  We cooked together again – sometimes in person, more often on the phone – and I was so happy to have my friend back.

After a few years, R’s life again took her overseas, this time for a new job.  Before she left, we had a blissful summer while she trained in D.C.  On one of her last nights in the country, hubby and I spent the evening helping her pack.  R couldn’t take much with her, and she had to get rid of most of her teas and skincare products.  I promised to take what I could (including most of the tea) and enjoy it on her behalf.  That night, a few lavender body cremes ended up riding home with me in my shoulder bag.

Fortunately, I’d made my peace with lavender.  In fact, I rather liked it.  The smooth-yet-spicy scent didn’t bother me anymore; over the years I’d started to associate it with R and I’d amassed a growing lavender collection of my own.  A bouquet of dried lavender in my front hall.  Some lavender sachets that I brought home from the Arles Market in Provence.  A tube of lavender apple hand creme from Sabon in NYC, purchased while visiting R (who else?).  Lavender essential oil, a tiny vial of roll-on perfume, and a refreshing lavender facial spray.  Yes, I rather liked the stuff.

Over the year that R was gone, I sent her care packages filled with tea sachets, gourmet chocolate bars, and skincare products in her favorite scents, including lavender.  Meanwhile, I sipped her lavender black tea and smoothed her lavender shea butter over my hands and arms, and thought of her.  Technology being far better than it was when R was in the Peace Corps, we were able to keep in touch without resorting to camels.  We exchanged daily emails, chatted via Yahoo messenger, and even talked on the phone, so although she was on the other side of the world I didn’t feel as though she was far away – indeed, I was able to tell her that I was pregnant about an hour after taking the test (she was the first person to hear the news after hubby).

Then R came home, and now she lives closer to me (geographically speaking) than she has at any time since college.  We still chat on the phone almost daily.  And while we still have many things in common, it’s the scent of lavender that reminds me of her more than anything else.  Which means I think of her multiple times every day – when I use my lavender wash or face spray, when I sip my lavender tea or smell my lavender sachets or gaze at my lavender bouquet, I’m always thinking of R.  These days I enjoy the scent in its own right, but more because it reminds me so vividly of my friend.

4 thoughts on “Of Lavender and Friendship

    • Mmmmm, Ivory soap! Such a clean, classic smell – love it. Nothing brings back memories like scent. I remember when I was 16 and a foreign exchange student, my host sister wore a fruity perfume (I wish I could describe the scent, but I was never able to put my finger on exactly what it was) and to this day, when I get a whiff of anything similar it takes me right back to Germany in 1998. Memories!

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