It arrived in the mail: a birthday package of Belle Aroma® Cherry Noir No-Mess Fragrance Tarts® sent as a teasing reminder of my first crush…a story this friend knows all too well.

Mrs. Parsons had just started a history club in our school and its launch would be a spring break sojourn to Washington D.C. to tour the historic 3M’s: monuments, memorials, and museums.

I could not have been more excited.

The club quickly filled up with would-be history buffs, but we were not enough to fill a tour bus. Undaunted, Mrs. Parsons invited a club from another high school to ensure we could still go.

“Kids from another school?!?!”

When the day came, we boarded the tour bus first and, without prompting, all sat on the side behind the driver. They were from a rival high school, and we didn’t know how far the rivalry would extend.

We played it cool as they filed onto the bus, but questions raced through my mind.

“How many boys? How many girls? Are they friendly? Do they look threatening? Will we have anything in common?”

It was a four-hour trip and only those seated along the aisle had the opportunity to get acquainted. The bus, however, remained silent.

Finally, one of the counselors suggested we sing each school’s alma mater and cheer songs. Then a rest stop and seatmates traded windows for the aisle.

And that is how it began.

Fred (I never knew I liked the name, Fred!) was named after his father, and his father’s father and so on. He was the nicest boy I had ever met. Hours flew by on the bus as we talked and then we toured the monuments, memorials, and museums together. We explored the Capitol Rotunda, the 555 feet of the Washington Monument, the granite figure in the Jefferson Memorial, the grandeur of Lincoln in his chair. I didn’t think anything could be more inspiring (or more romantic!) until thousands of billowy pink and white cherry blooms came into view.

This visual delight, a gift in 1912 from Japan to the United States symbolizing renewal and the ephemeral nature of life, brings a heavenly fragrance enhanced by the water borne breeze from the Tidal Basin. A wafting after-rain mix of earth, sea, sky, and the sweetness of a first crush.

Cherry blossom fragrance is not so strong, but fragrance makers will tell you it is a common component in many perfumes. Makers of cherry fruit-based perfumes say cherries themselves boast a delicate floral scent that makes an undertone that is a strong attraction for purchasers.

The effects of blossoms and fruit together compound to affect all the senses. Fragrance hits the nose, and from the nose to the tongue a gourmand effect is created such that you feel as if the fragrance is edible. And this “scentsation” travels to the brain, then to the amygdala, the eyes and the heart where those systems combine to elicit a sort of reverence that comes over one, especially when encountering three thousand cherry trees simultaneously in bloom.

Cherry perfume might be the sexiest fragrance trend of the decade, according to some perfumers. I was surely aware of the chemistry on that spring day on the banks of the Tidal Basin.

Today, the blossoms on the cherry trees in my backyard, cherry pie fresh from the oven, a cherry-based perfume or a cherry scent wafting from a fragrance diffuser are how I like to remember that class trip: the stunning 3M’s, three thousand cherry blossom trees, and my first crush.

In the nostalgic nose, a fragrant memory can last forever. Each time it hits me in the chest.

Fred…is that you?


Jean Greco for The Gift of Scent

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