Live Everyday Like It’s Your Birthday

My mother’s birthday is the 19th June, which always historically falls around the same time as Father’s Day. My usual joke is that I can only afford one present so both parents need to fight to the death in a gladiator-type duel to establish the winner; which whilst I think is pretty hilarious is usually greeted with stony silence followed by threats of disinheritance.

My mum was told a couple of years’ ago by her younger brother that no-one in their family has lived past 70 and as she has just celebrated her 67th, she has insisted now that we don’t buy her any more expensive jewellery as “she won’t get the wear” out of it! As she only likes jewellery that can be seen from space, along with the Great Wall of China; that’s just fine by me!

Because my mother routinely smells of mothballs and another of her “cure-alls” TCP antiseptic, costly perfume is also wasted. She deposits mothballs in the pockets of all her garments in her fight against all things creepy crawly but then forgets to remove them and it’s not until we are sat in some swanky restaurant that she suddenly realises that it’s not Estee Lauder or Chanel that is making everyone’s eyes water. She constantly tells me that “when she’s gone” I will know when she’s popped back to keep an eye on me as I’ll smell the mothballs!

So tell me then, what aromas remind you of your family?

moth balls

66 thoughts on “Live Everyday Like It’s Your Birthday

  1. Ah, my granny had a fine line in eau de Mothball – a good enough reason to eschew fur and wool if you needed one. The overriding home smell was cow shit and turning milk – such is the delight of the dairy farmer’s family 😉


  2. Your parents are true characters. Mothballs as perfume/insecticide: ingenious! I honestly can’t think of any particular scent related to anyone in my family, but around here, most everyone smells like tropical flowers (plumeria, pikaki, ginger, etc.) except for one male friend who smelt of garlic since he ate a lot of it, and that grungy homeless guy who sits next to you on the bus from time to time 😦


  3. you know already the similarities of our mothers….but mine always said we’d know it was her (post internment) because if we were ever pelted with cow shit from above…that was her. she has always said she’s coming back as a flying cow to rain poo on us. hahaha. i’ll take the mothballs!


  4. This is hilarious, Dallas! My grandmother used to keep her SILVERWARE in mothballs–and I’m not kidding. My mom wore Shalimar perfume, but it had a faint hint of cigarettes and leather mixed in. I used to wear Shalimar, but I my husband was allergic to it, so I keep a tiny bottle of it in the bathroom. Every once in a while I open it, and think of my mom.


  5. You really made me laugh with this one, Dallas. I’m nearly as old as your mom, but have never touched a mothball in my life, I did smell mothballs on someone in the queue at the pharmacy the other day, but he looked really ancient and was wearing odd socks with sandals. I hope my family will one day remember me for my Chanel #5 aroma. My MiL in England, who turns 100 in August is a Nina Ricci L’Air Du Temps fan. Thankfully, she doesn’t have a moth fetish. 😀


  6. And now I love your mom!!!

    My first recollection was not smell, but hearing music and singing. My mom told us stories in songs. And then it was the click-clack sound of a sewing machine. My mother is in her eighties and still is click-clacking away on a sewing machine making ballet and jazz costumes. She said to me the other day, we must continue to redefine who we are at every stage of our lives. There is always an adventure around the next corner, but we must embrace it as it is given, not as we plan.

    So tell your mother, take the expensive jewelry. 🙂 Great post – already looking forward to the next…


    • My mum used to have an old singer sewing machine but updated it a few years ago but I preferred the old one and how fab is your Mum still making costumes and I bet there a hundred times better than the ones you can buy in the shops


  7. Herbes de provence makes me think of my dad because he uses it quite a lot in his cooking as seasoning. But my mother…? I don’t know, she smells nice but I don’t really equate any one scent with her! I’d probably have to smell it to remember!


  8. You can tell your mum that 70 is apparently the new 50. A friend of mine who’s in her mid-30s told me that she keeps mothballs in her wardrobe and I was really surprised, I didn’t know they still existed, I think of them as belonging to a bygone era. The smell of freshly baked cakes reminds me of my mum because when I was wee I’d come home from school and find cooling racks laid out with little buns, scones and pancakes on them. The smell of wood and sawdust reminds me of my dad because he’s forever sawing things up.


  9. Very funny, I love the “smells of mothballs and another of her “cure-alls”

    My mother used to collect medicines, if I arrived at the house with a cough she would have some potion to cure it. I once looked at the name on the label of a medicine she was trying to make me take, who is Mrs Ryder I asked.
    I don’t know, she answered, Barbara gave me the bottle, last week when I had a cough, but it works,



      • My elder brother married a nurse, one afternoon she was looking for a plaster and found my mothers hoard of assorted medicine. She was appalled and threw most of it away.

        I don’t think their relationship ever properly recovered, nor did my mums stash of pills and potions.

        She had little cough pills called lung healers, they looked like mouse droppings and I think they were eventually banned. They tasted foul but killed a cough almost instantly. My sister in law threw them away as well.. 🙂


  10. too funny, Dallas! Happy Birthday to your Mom. I grew up in Germany with the smell of ‘Nivea’ and later in England and around the world it became “oil of ulay” – loved it saved money on frightfully expensive beautycreams, but spent it on Scent like “Mme Rochas and Rochas” – still love it. In short, Mom’s smell was Nivea and Cologne 4711 (famous product from Cologne!).


  11. Noxema, my mom swore by the stuff. She would plaster it on her face and then leave it there for what always seemed like an hour.

    Onions layered with Brown Sugar, my grandmothers home made cough syrup. Noxious stuff and stinks to high heaven. Layers of the stuff set in a bowl on the back of the stove was a enough to make your eyes water as soon as you walked in the kitchen. My brother and I would try hard to never cough around either my mother or my grandmother, we would be sure to have this horrifying concoction forced down our throats should we do.

    Fiberglass and varnish – my dad built a 27 ft sailboat in our garage, you could smell this for months throughout the house, enough to make you dizzy.

    Mothballs? Tell your mom Happy Birthday and Cedar works just as well and smells better.


  12. Mom, forgive … me, but it was the cigarette smoke I remember. Even if she stopped 3 years ago after 65 years of smoking. Smell from my childhood with my grandparents … must be the wood that my grandfather created the most fantastic figures.


  13. Hilarious! What characters your parents are – too funny!
    I’ve got fond memories of my aunt… She smoked Marlboro cigarettes and wore Este Lauder’s Youth Dew Perfume… Actually, after she died, I was folding laundry and got a whiff of a lit Marlboro w/ a hint of Youth Dew… Believe it or not, it was my one of my favorite scents… I do believe she was checking in on me.


  14. Very funny Dallas! You don’t spare your mom even on her birthday do you? 😀 Mothballs remind me of my grandmothers saris. But the jasmine she wore on her hair masked the smell somewhat ::-)


  15. Fun read! I think of Christmas and my grandparents every time I smell the inside of a cardboard box straight out of the attic. Smells like the huge Christmas gift boxes they used to send filled with newspapers and dozens of wrapped presents for us kids.


  16. Mothballs remind me of my old Disney fairy tale collection. My mom was also a great fan of it, that she insisted on putting it on everything we wanted to preserve. When they came to CZ last year, they brought with them 2 of those books for my children. It’s great to see that both books were still in very good condition. The only thing was, it still reeked of mothballs. 🙂


  17. My teenage son is a big fan of Lynx deodorant. Haven’t had a shower? Favorite hoody unwashed & a bit on the nose? Just spray Lynx liberally all over self. Problem solved!


  18. Dallas, the mothball smell rings true. I have a dear aunt who is deathly afraid of snakes, so one day when she saw one slither under her house she knew she had to find a deterrent. Thanks to some trusty folk remedies, she decided the solution was mothballs. So she tossed thousands of mothballs into the crawl space under her house, never considering what it would smell like INSIDE the house. Yikes! Needless to say, the place reeked … for months. After that, guests would only come for an outdoor picnic! 🙂 ~Terri


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