Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sandalwood

When my father was a graduate student he became friends with Denanjay from Bombay, now Mumbai, and a fellow graduate student. When my sister was born, Jay became her godfather, and when Jay returned to India, he took being her godfather in the correct manner: that he should avoid spiritual prattle, and instead provide exotic presents.

I was green with envy. My godmother lived in France, or so my parents told me, as a way of explaining her hands-off approach.

One of the presents Jay sent was a garland of exquisitely crafted sandalwood roses. Each rose so paper thin you could hardly believe it. I marveled. It was a thing so fragrant that it perfumed the linen in the linen closet where my mother hung it, for safekeeping. As in, away from Elizabeth.

Because it did not belong to me, and because my sister didn't seem to see the extreme value of it, the more I wanted it. I would go into the linen closet and think of elephants, and dream that my godmother was from India, too. Claude, whom I met years later, was extremely stylish, and warm, and scented with Paris, and that made up for a lot. But still, sandalwood.

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