My mom wore Estée Lauder White Linen perfume: one spray applied before each 5 AM shift at the Denny’s off the highway that cut through Columbia, South Carolina; three sprays before church on Sunday morning; and three before Bible study on Tuesday and Thursday nights. It’s a sharp scent that not many women wear anymore. The Estée Lauder bottle was the only object on Mom’s dresser, a tidy surface in our cluttered trailer, which smelled distinctly like cooked meat and faintly of mold.
She taught me how to apply perfume when I was just five years old: spray your left wrist, press both wrists together and circle slowly, then slide your wrists behind your ears and down to the crook of your neck. I watched her reflection in the dresser mirror while she demonstrated. Wearing her freshly cleaned and pressed diner uniform, she showed me how to use the expensive perfume with economy and pride.