I dedicate this blog to an exceptional man, who has lived his life from his heart. His intrinsic strength and masculine propensity kept everything and everyone on the right path, yet, he has the innate mastery to calm the most distressed heart and mind by simply pouring out the infinite love and empathy contained within him. this Man is Alfio De Dominicis – my Dad. A father who has had to endure several twists and turns; ups and downs; Instances of dreams and circumstances of distress. He has withstood the rough seas and surfed on the crest of the waves but all for one purpose – the love for his family. The bar he has set is much too high for me to reach, despite the continuous examples and lessons he has presented me through the years and still today.
I would love to share the hundreds of special and fond memories I have of him while growing up, however, for me to do that I would have to write volumes – besides some memories are best kept in my heart.
There is one fantastic memory that I will share. It is one that I treasure deeply and it represents his character perfectly.
We are alone, in the small and only bathroom in our Yeoville (Johannesburg) house. It is clean and cool. A small mottled-glass-window lets in diluted light from a grey, concrete courtyard. Only the white enamel bath and the mirror of the medicine cabinet manage to reflect the scarce light in the overcast bathroom. The basin is too high for my 5-year-old body, so my father picks me up and places me down on the edge of the basin counter. My company is warmly encouraged during his morning shave. He is standing in front of the “medicine cabinet” which keeps the necessary apparatus and preparations for his thoughtful ritual: a the double-edged-razor with its small box of Wilkinson blades, rest neatly together; in its rightful place, a dented aluminium tube of “Palm Olive Classic” shaving cream. Its empty end is carefully and tightly rolled upwards, squeezing any bit of obstinate cream hiding in the tube’s indentations; in the centre of the bottom shelf, stands the cherished Badger Hair shaving brush. My father runs the “hot” tap till steam comes off the cold basin. He fills the basin with scolding hot water and soaks the brush in it. While the stiff bristles of the brush soak and soften in the hot water, he delicately slips a new blade into the razor’s niche. He’s humming all the while and then looks at me and cheerfully sings a “Carpenter’s” hit “…just the two of us…and nobody else in sight……there’s nobody else…and I’m feeling good just holding you tight”. I am safe and important- It is just the two of us. Proficiently, he whips the soapy, clean smelling shaving cream with the brush…. “There’s a kind of hush…all over the world tonight….” he sings another line of the Carpenters’ tune while applying the thick lather onto the strong lines of his face. He seamlessly shifts from singing into a calming hum, making sure to keep his full lips still so as not to get foam onto his thick “Magnum P.I.” moustache. He has covered his face in deep white froth and is about to start my favourite part: he reaches for the razor and slides it suavely over the contours of his face. Each stroke ploughing deep farrows into the mounds of snow-white foam. Eventually the white lather has been mostly removed, only specks of spume remain below each earlobe and on the sides of his neck. He rinses his face with hot water and pats it dry with a towel leaving behind expected spots of blood on the white cloth. Then out the cabinet he proudly takes out an emerald green bottle in the shape of a closed pinecone. Across the bottle, in ‘80s-motor-sport-font, reads Pino Silvestre. He opens the lid and pours out an alcohol-abundant liquid which he splashes onto his neck and cheeks. Playfully, he sucks air through a grimace, feigning the painful stinging of the alcohol washing over the nicks on his neck. Then, with the fast-evaporating-residue on his fingers, he smudges some of the after-shave under my nose.
The scent is potent and clinical at first. It clears the sinuses in preparation for the unmistakable pine-needle scented perfume. Although the obvious hero in Pino Silvestre (hence the name), Pine is not as dominant as you would think. Its limelight is clouded by an Aromatic-Fougere requisite – Lavender. Lavender is not used artistically, in Pino Silvestre, as in other Fougeres. It is prominent and stands its ground harshly against the Sylvan Protagonist. Mercifully, Basil, Juniper Berries and Sage come, just in time, to break-up the premature power-struggle. The aromatic herbal infusion diffuses the fracas creating a sense of harmony. The dry down is s balanced blend of bitter and sweet: Geranium and Carnation; and Tonka bean, Caraway and Amber. It is quintessentially masculine and glares scornfully at those who mistakenly refer to it as perfume. It is “Aftershave”…..
……..a dreamy and comforting “Aftershave. The smell of someone bigger, greater, and stronger to ease your anxieties and fears. It’s the smell of a father with whom everything will be OK.