EVENING IN PARIS

Grandma Lila and I always had a closeness few people get to experience in their lives.

My mother Zoey learned she was pregnant with me when she was 14 years old – too young to drive and too old to play with dolls. The boy she said was the father did what any teenager would do in that situation; he denied everything and bailed on her.

Abortion was not open for discussion. Grandma Lila told my mother in no uncertain terms that getting pregnant was irresponsible but ending a baby’s life was unforgivable. As far as Grandma was concerned Zoey had two choices: she could stay home and help earn money by doing work with her – sewing pearls and little bows on ladies panties – or go back to school until it was time for her baby to be born. She’d rather die than be seen in her condition so Zoey opted to say home with Grandma.

Even though it was the lesser of two evils, as far as my mother was concerned staying home was like being in prison. She and Grandma Lila sewed for hours while watching soap operas, cleaned the house and cooked meals. Zoey didn’t go out and never saw her friends. She got bigger and more uncomfortable with each passing month and couldn’t wait for the pregnancy to be over. Finally on a chilly November morning just before Thanksgiving Zoey’s water broke and Grandma Lila brought her to the hospital. Zoey was in labor for almost two days when the doctor finally decided to do a C-section. Then the unthinkable happened: there were “complications” and my mother bled out. She died in the delivery room.

Grandma Lila was devastated at the loss of her only child. My mother never had the chance to see me, hold me or delight in that new baby scent. When I was placed in my Grandma’s arms, she swore to protect me for the rest of her days. She took me home and held me tight as she settled in her rocking chair, her soft woolen shawl draped over us both. That’s where our bond began, wrapped in a shawl delicately fragranced by the hint of gardenias from Grandma Lila’s perfume, Evening in Paris.

From day one Grandma Lila was my champion. It was she who fed and bathed me, watched me take my first steps and sat up with me all night when I had scarlet fever. We baked cookies, played in the backyard sprinkler and laughed together watching I Love Lucy. Grandma put me on the school bus in the morning and greeted me every afternoon when I got home. She took me to piano lessons, Girl Scouts and soccer practice. Grandma was there for every concert, spelling bee and sports event. As I got older she sweetly explained the “birds and bees”, careful to answer only the questions I asked and not overwhelm me with too much information.

When I started dating, Grandma Lila would give me a little wink if she approved of the boy or a rub of her nose if she didn’t but she never interfered. Then I met Steve and she told me he was “a real keeper”. Steve asked for Grandma’s blessing before he proposed to me and she walked me down the aisle on my wedding day. And she was the first to hold our daughter Jenna just hours after she was born.

Months turned into years and Grandma Lila started spending more time in her rocking chair wrapped in her beloved woolen shawl and looking out the window. She was old and frail now but the thought of putting her in a nursing home never crossed our minds. Steve and I took care of her until the very end, just as she took care of me for so many years. I began wrapping Grandma’s shawl around my shoulders as I sat on the sofa watching TV; it brought me comfort and sweet memories of my life with her.

It was right after Thanksgiving, just a few months after Grandma passed away, when I returned home from shopping and was struck by the familiar fragrance of gardenias wafting through the house. Maybe Steve surprised me with flowers but gardenias blossomed in spring and summer, not late fall. As I walked by the living room I saw Grandma’s shawl wasn’t on the sofa where I left it; I found it draped over her old rocking chair and neither Steve nor Jenna had moved it. I picked up the shawl and held it to my face, inhaling the fresh scent of Evening in Paris. Tears filled my eyes; I knew that Grandma Lila had visited us that day. I miss her so very much.

NAR © 2020

31 thoughts on “EVENING IN PARIS”

      1. Always a pleasure! Whatever you write, Nancy, you write with credibility and conviction. That’s why it has a mass appeal. Keep writing.

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    1. To pause and reflect are wonderful things, Keith. If I can do that for just one person, then I am fulfilled. My tale has been told and my job is done. It’s a pleasure to bring you my stories and a thrill to know you enjoy them. Thank you for your very kind words.

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  1. Nancy beautifully crafted story I thought it was autobiographical the way your words conveyed the depth of the characters emotions.
    I’ll have to google Evening In Paris
    My mums fav perfume was Chanel no5 and we gave it to her when she turned 80

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    1. Thank you, Michele. Evening in Paris has a lovely reputation across the US. Kids would save bits of change throughout the year to buy this perfume for their moms for Christmas. Whether my Mom liked it or not I’ll never know for sure; the act of giving meant more than the gift itself. 🎁

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    1. Thank you, Sadje. A few people have said it felt real to them as well. Reading that comment fills me with a sense of accomplishment and great happiness that I was able to connect with my readers through this story. For me as a storyteller, being relatable is what it’s all about. So glad you enjoy my story! 💕

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  2. It is very hard to believe this story is not true. What a beautiful and lovely piece. I think it is wonderful that you ended it with a visit. What a very well written piece Nancy. Sending wishes for blessings throughout the season. Big hugs 🤗 Joni

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    1. Thank you, Joni. When I get feedback like that, it really makes me feel like I’m doing what I was meant to do … be a storyteller. Your lovely comments inspire me to keep doing what I love to do and that is to write. Thanks again, luv, and best wishes to you and yours for a wondrous holiday season. 💞

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  3. Wow! Nancy – this felt great to read.
    Early in, I managed to put the characters in a certain home we’d once lived in. Everything you wrote found a place in that living room.
    What a great experience and commingling of memories.

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  4. Very moving Nancy.
    Evening in Paris is the perfume that we kids would buy for mom for Christmas, pooling our bottle money. It was not very expensive, but had a unique scent.
    The Vermont Country Store, which lives on nostalgia, bought the rights to the perfume and starting making it again, only they sell it for $60 bucks a bottle, not $3!

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    1. You’re absolutely right! I remember buying this for my mother for Christmas by saving 10¢ here and 5¢ there throughout the year. Now what a coincidence is it that I should post this story today and you then tell me the Vermont Country Story bought the rights to this perfume! Incredible! Thanks for the update, D, and for your nice words. PS – Got your email 🤗 🎄

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  5. A charming and touching tale, Nancy. One could well believe it was autobiographical, it rang so true. Grandma Lila was a wonderful step-parent to our protagonist and presumably eschewed further male companionship herself, despite being widowed or otherwise deprived of her husband at a relatively young age.
    Her love for her granddaughter, Steve and Jenna shines through the words, as she continues to send love and healing from the Spirit World. One senses that she will visit often, leaving further signs of her continued existence, together with the lingering, fragrant scent of gardenias ….

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    1. Thank you so much for your very kind and complimentary words, Simon. This story was a pleasure to write, one of those where the words came to me easily and naturally. When I visited my family today, my daughter-in-law had lovely candles on the dining room table. They had the fragrance of gardenias! How ironic.

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