Miss Ada

This is a rather bittersweet edition of Scent Stories, as the blend it features is fading into what I hope is only a temporary dark period. Most of you remember the gnashing of teeth & rending of garments that accompanied my search for a vanilla fragrance oil to replace the one that fell prey to a closing supplier. I’ve been able to find suitable replacements for it in nearly all my blends, but Miss Ada remains elusive. The vanilla in question is the main character, center stage, & nothing I’ve tried comes close to capturing that warmth & sweetness.

So, rather than foist upon you a shadow of what Miss Ada is meant to be, I’ve made the difficult decision to shelve her. A new supplier has picked up the original formulas & is slowly releasing fragrances as their capital allows – it is my fervent hope that they will re-release that coveted vanilla, & I’ll be able to bring Miss Ada back unscathed. Until then, I’ve got a few bottles of Slip, & a story to tell you…

Sometimes an idea for a scent will pop into my head, & it’ll make me giggle. Or do a little dance. Or spit out my coffee. Miss Ada made me cry.

I’d been rolling around ideas for a soft vanilla-based scent for a while, when one of my lovely Facebook fans requested something with violets.

Violets, to me, are absolute nostalgia. We had them growing wild in the garden when I was little, & my mum & I would pick them & eat them & put them out for the faeries, just like in my storybooks. I brought a box of violet pastilles home from England one year, & while the flavor was undeniably odd, the smell of those dusky ivory sweeties was magical. Violet perfume struck me as deliciously old-fashioned, & I started thinking about blending it with a nice warm vanilla…

I knew her name instantly, like she’d been waiting quietly & patiently for me to find her. I could see her in my mind’s eye, pale & lovely, her dark glossy curls tucked gently behind her ears. She had on a collared dress, covered in tiny violet flowers & edged in simple lace, & she was bathed in vanilla-tinted lamp light as she bent over her wooden desk. I could see the slope of the ceiling in the shadows & a small window tucked into the eaves & I knew that hers was an attic room, at the top of the house, like a tiny beacon to those in the rooms below.

The simplest questions can often unleash a torrent of ideas, & so it was with Ada. Why was she in that room, of all rooms? Where had she come from? As I asked these questions, her life unfolded before me like a love-worn letter: her sweetheart, lost in a blaze of fire over the English Channel; her quiet escape from the town that would ever remind her of him; the notice advertising a room to let in exchange for light domestic duties, must abide children; the family adrift without a mother & wife; her case open on the lace coverlet, her books & a single photograph set carefully on the windowsill; and two small faces, wide-eyed in buttoned-up pajamas. I imagined her smiling to herself as she read late into the evening, feeling the presence of the children keeping silent vigil in the shadows off the landing. I imagined them stealing into her room, just to smell her perfume & sit on her bed.

I fell in love with Ada, just as the children did, & I know a lot of you did, too. It breaks my heart to retire her, but I find it rather poetic, in a way, to lose her for a while… Think fondly of her, & hope for her return.


About Hayley

I'm a trained pastry chef, DIY queen & mother with my heart in west England, my soul in Chicago, & my feet in south-central PA. Paintbox Soapworks was born out of my love for handicraft, beautiful fragrances & clean hands. I play around with colors & scents & soothe my insomnia by dreaming up new ideas. I pull heavily from music (Waits, White Stripes, Wilco), books (Tolkien, the avalanche of children's books in C's room) & my own fertile imagination.
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