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SISU= (Finnish) stoic determination, tenacity, grit, bravery, resilience, and hardiness.


Olympia, WA, summer 2023 My bottle's words: Elysian Manufacturing Co., Chemists and Perfumers, Detroit, USA In The Encyclopedia of Perfume, under Perfume Houses, Vol. E, pg 2, it is listed: Elysian Manufacturing Co., USA Detroit, MI; launched Heather Bloom, Pandora and Violet in c1908 I am a story teller inspired by my great grandmother ‘s immigration story from Finland to America at the turn of the 20th century. She traveled with 3 sons and a daughter, all under the age of 12. She arrived, with 1,000's of other desperate, hopeful, courageous souls; people seeking a life beyond survival and the threat of starvation, war, persecution; all the things people flee. People like my great grandma, who arrived with what they could carry, knowing what they'd left behind would be forever lost to them- their things, their people, their cultures, everything familiar that settles a soul.

SISU Her feet were swollen and raw. Her bones ached from the constant cold, wet wind that blew incessantly through the cracks. Her gut felt caved. There was nothing left to heave. Her cracked, calloused fingers clutched her babies close, praying her body would be heat enough to warm them one more night. Just one more. The rest will come. But just this one, if she could make it through this one. Time stopped, days bled a dull coat of suffering, all tied up with her false smile and assumed bravado. Her babies must feel safe, trust their mam, their rod, their force. What she left was never going to be told, to her children, to anyone. It died with her. No one would ever know what drove her out, what scorched her rage so fierce that she vowed - never would it happen again. She would die, she would sacrifice the lives of her children before it ever reached their tender hearts, their innocent souls. With nothing more than the rags on their backs, feed sacks tied over someone else's shoes, and the scraps she could beg to stave off hunger, she fled. Steerage. The middle of the Atlantic Ocean, pitching and heaving their boat with abandon. Just one more night she told herself, I can do this. America. The stank of the boat bowels replaced with the stank of a city overrun. New York. They waited in line for hours on end. That one had eye disease. Rejected, deported back. This one did not understand the question. 4 chances. Rejected, deported back.

Fear. Flop sweat fear. Just make it through the line. Keep the children distracted. Another game of guess what, anything. Ignore the hunger. Pretend, for the children, for customs, for never going back. Aberdeen, WA. Finn Town. A Finnish ghetto, the language she knew. Blackberries for picking, fish to catch, wood for heating, a home. Her home. Her children in school, learning, assimilating. Her daughter, so quiet. 12 years old and put in the first grade because she did not speak English. At 16, she left school to work, to meet a man, to fall for his English accent and pencil thin moustache, a logger with big dreams and a restless spirit. She was a rarity, a woman in a logging camp, timid and shy. When she realized she was pregnant, she panicked. She packed, ready to flee rather than face his rejection. Instead, he handed her a small box, plain, with a frayed ribbon, soiled from the dirt and grease ever imbedded in his hands and nails. In it was a bottle of perfume, the scent of violets lingering on her fingers as she touched her pulse points. Her first time. Perfume, it's only purpose, to speak beauty and womanhood to a cast-off as she. They stayed. Their daughter was born in the rail car they called home. It was 1925. When Anna was 2 years old, they moved to Copalis Beach. There was no running water, electricity, plumbing, not for them or anyone else in town. The depression, the war, the passage of time. Anna was skipped a grade and graduated high school at 16, went to business college for accounting, knew there was a better life for her if she left. She did. The day she bought her own kitchen towels that matched, with the money she earned, marked something in her heart.

Anna became a quintessential wife, cut no corners, left no stone unturned. Together she and her husband prospered. They had a daughter, who got a double master's degree, married a nuclear engineer, was never cold or hungry, never had to feel the rage, the fear, the SISU that propelled those who went before her, just as her great grandmother had dreamed. Anna died at home at 98 years old. Tucked away in the corner of her jewelry drawer, behind the pearls and diamonds, an old dirty box with a frayed ribbon was found, wrapped in white silk. Inside the box lay an empty bottle, its lid lost to time, the fragile scent of violets let free, one last time. Lisa Wahl

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