Lady Cotillion

This is Mama. She is the sweetest thing you’ll ever meet. That is unless you tick her off. Then you’ll think you’ve unleashed a tiger, but that’s another post. Today I want to talk about what people think about when they think of Mama.

They usually talk about how she smells. Really. I’m not kidding you. No, not a bad stinky smell, but an aroma of love and goodness. My cousins and friends used to tell me when I was growing up that they loved to hug my mama because it made them feel so good. That she had such a comforting scent and no one on earth smelled like Mama. Of course, at the time I didn’t get it or appreciate it. I thought my cousins were just a little loopy. You know how every family has a run of loopiness?

My mother wore Avon Cotillion cream sachet. It came in a pretty little glass jar. She used to dab it on her wrists and behind her ears. In the jar it just smelled sickly sweet, kind of cheap. It smelled like that on my sister and I, also. But put it on Mama and a whole new world opened up. It must have had something to do with her body chemistry.

Then there was the Avon Cotillion body talc. It came in an oval shaker or in a box with a big fluffy powder puff. Well, Mama used the powder puff, and boy, did she shake that thing every single day. When you walked into the bathroom, it looked like it had been hit by a blizzard. Every time I went in, I came out with white patches all over my clothes. I’d either have to rub it in or try to beat it out. I used to try to wipe down the bathroom every day, but it was useless. However, if I waited two days…well, I know you’ve heard of having so much dust on your furniture that you could write your name in it. This was more like having to take a snow shovel to dig out the letters! In fact my sister and I didn’t have to go outside like other kids to make mud pies. All we had to do was just go into the bathroom and turn on the water in the sink, and we could make talc powder pies. Seriously, if the toilet lid was left open, the seat had a layer of powder on it. Even the water in the bowl had a skim of talc dancing over it.

But the blizzard was worth the comfort I eventually found in the scent of Mama. I finally got what others were saying after I moved away. When I’d come home for a visit, I’d pretty much surrender into the softness of Mama’s hug. I’d inhale deeply, and everything else in life disappeared. It was the scent of love, the scent of home. I began to appreciate how her hugs, even her mere presence made everything else seem right.

Then, Avon had the audacity to do the unthinkable. They took Mama’s essence away. Yes, they discontinued the Cotillion line. We had Mama, but a big part of her was missing. She still offered comfort, food, and good hugs. But she didn’t smell the same. It was the end of an era.

About ten years ago, Avon brought back discontinued fragrances for a short period. I bought Mama a dozen jars. (I wish I’d gotten a whole lot more!) So, for a while we got “Mama comfort” back. I savored those days knowing they wouldn’t last.

Mama has tried many perfumes through the years since, and has never again found her niche. She says that the reason she actually wore Cotillion was that it was the only fragrance she’d ever tried that didn’t give her a headache. I understand as I’ve had that problem with fragrances myself. I know the important thing is that we still have Mama. And we have memories of her once special scent. But Mama’s legacy throughout our extended family is how wonderful she always smelled.

I find it interesting that a sound or an aroma can invoke memories or intense feelings.  And to think that all it takes for me is a whiff of a certain cheap cologne and I am enveloped in a warm loving embrace. I know the scent is only the trigger…Mama is the love.

12 thoughts on “Lady Cotillion

  1. What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to a special lady. (This kind of post is why I left an award for you at MY blog!) I’m sure you’ve thought of this already but what about googling Cotillion and see if you can find it somewhere, ebay perhaps? What a shame. I love scents so much I can’t stick with a signature one – but have always wanted to. I know from experience how much of memory can be wrapped up in one scent.

  2. This is great. I love associating scents with people. I remember a friend asking me why I used perfume when my kids were infants; she wanted hers to know her own scent. But I said I wanted my babies to know how I was going to be smelling to them, and that included the cologne I was wearing every day. I feel naked without it. And scents do smell so differently on different people.
    Bet you smell great too!

  3. That is so true, my mom also uses an Avon fragrance and you’re right, if I smell it on anyone, I automatically look for her. Maybe you could find this discontinued scent on eBay. That’s the first place I check for anything that’s no longer in production.

  4. Hi, Suzicate. I just found you through Jane’s blog and am so grateful I did. I’ve enjoyed poking around and will definitely be back.

    I’ve always heard that scent is the sense most strongly connected to memory. And clearly the scent of Cotillion connects you to a universe of comfort and security embodied by your mother. What a lovely memory and what a lovely tribute.

  5. Suze – you did a great job capturing the “essence” of Mama. Great memories. And every time I smell freshly cut wood or sawdust and Old Spice I think of Daddy. Yes, those memory/smell connections are very powerful. Thanks for bringing those memories back to the surface.

  6. very nice! i know what you mean about a scent invoking a memory. my grandma was an avon addict and i don’t remember what the scent was called, but the powder came in a red plastic container and she powdered up after her shower. she smelled sooooo good! shame on avon!

  7. What a wonderful tribute to your mother. She sounds like my grandmother, she just had the certain scent that will forever be in my brain.

    I hate it when things get discontinued!

  8. I was searching for somewhere to buy my mother some Cotillion, and I ended up here… I too, have been frustrated by Avon’s cancelled product line because, as a child, the smell of Cotillion was synonymous with “mother” in my house. If I can’t smell that when I visit her, it’s not the same… It’s sad that they decided there were too few consumers to continue it…

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