How Cosmetics Breathe Life into Hazy Memories

The thing about memory is that these sensations or feelings will always be separate from the reality of what it was. Instead, you can only remember how you experienced it. If you’re lucky, you get to experience something beautiful. 

For example, one of the earliest memories in my life is a garden shed, decorated with dried flowers and blankets. In the backyard of a house in Cupertino, Lilit’s family converted this small structure into a quirky sort of guest room. The whole shed was only big enough for a twin bed, but had ample room for our imaginations to run wild. It even had a window, and perched on the sill, there was a perfect collection of colored glass vials. The bottles were small and delicate, but huge in a child’s hands, and contained fragrances so delicious, they might as well have been labeled “Drink Me.” 

Somehow I convinced myself (although looking back, it must have been Lilit who convinced me) that her grandmother lived in this shed, and that she was some sort of magical being who needed only homemade perfume to survive. This was all a part of an elaborate narrative that a child’s mind had constructed, in which flowers, objects, and people were all characters in the myths and legends of our childhood. Although obviously she was a real, flesh and blood person, there was some essence of this fairytale that was true-- considering that one day, Lilit’s family decided they could survive off of homemade perfume, opened a business in Armenia, and never looked back.

So many of the smells and textures of Nairan remind me of this half-remembered feeling. In fact, the whole atmosphere of Armenia is rich with it. It’s simultaneously this warm, intimate, and abundant world, in the midst of technological decay and abandoned Soviet infrastructure. It’s a wonderland of possibility, inside of a garden shed.

It’s amazing to me how connected smell is with memory and emotion, when something as ephemeral as the scent of a rose or ripe apricot seems like it should float away into the summer sky and never return. But instead, they stick with you, almost like a dream that lingers over you after you wake up, but really, more like a time machine. That’s the world inside and outside of memory, one that embraces enigmatic notes, and is rooted in a base of complexities. An olfactive memory recreates a moment that may resonate with one person, but also echoes into a wider unconscious. Both here and there, the feeling evokes a nostalgia for a place that you might have never been, but that you have always known.

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Elize Manoukian is a writer and DIY facial aficionado who currently lives in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. She believes that a small brand is like a family. And for her, Nairian represents the tightly-knit diasporan community that raised her in California. Because she is so close to the action, Elize often visits the Nairian eco-farm, where she takes part in rose harvests, interviews lab and agricultural workers, and unlocks the secrets of Nairian's production. Her favorite product is the Lavender Deodorant.