Scent Stories

It’s like a HD DVD of the past!

Isn’t it amazing what your nose can make you remember? I’m fairly sure that there is no other sense that is so directly connected to memory. And not in a fleeting, oh-hey-I-kinda-remember-that way. No, a smell memory takes over your whole body, and you have to pause, if for just a moment, to savor. I was struck by a scent memory this past weekend, and it got me to thinking about what others affect me. So? A list!

10. Nanny’s Basement. On a hot summer afternoon when we were kids, you would find no one outside at Nanny’s. You would find no one in her whole upstairs. No, every person who was there (and we all were) was crammed into her basement, sitting on old rockers or day beds or just the floor. And everyone was silent. All you could hear was the creak of chairs and the sigh of kids. And all you could smell was that cool, dark smell of a basement. Kinda wet and kinda off but always comforting.

9. Hot Wet Pavement. You know that ionized smell of a really hot day, just after it has rained? I mean immediately after – some drops are still falling? And then you walk barefoot on pavement that is steaming from the water, and it smells of rainclouds and August. That smell. That’s what I smelled this past weekend.

8. Library. When we lived in Yarmouth my mother would take us, once a week, to the local library. It was a very old building, with very old books. And it always smelled of dust and old paper and books that had been there for a long, long time. It is what time smells like.

7. Summer Strawberries. At least one day a summer my Nanny would ask Sister Kristin and I to sleep over at her house, as opposed to the usual vice-versa (we asked all the time). Then, the next morning, before the sun got up, she would wake us and we would find ourselves picking strawberries at a farmers field as the day dawned. There is no fresher smell that dew evaporating off of ripe strawberries as the day warms.

6. Grass. It was my job, from the age of 11, to mow the lawn. It was a chore that I actually looked forward to. It was loud enough to drown out the sounds around me, yet monotonous enough for me to ignore. It was as if I was all alone in the world, a poor man’s “Z For Zachariah”. Or “Walden”. I did some of my best thinking while cutting the grass. I love that moist smell of grass that has just dried from the morning wetness, broken in half by the blade.

5. Old Spice. Before Drakkar, before Eternity, before Polo, there was Old Spice. Every Sunday my father would get ready first and go to church ahead of us, in order to prepare the music for the service. I didn’t get a chance to see him before he had gone. But I could always smell where he had been, because he would splash on some Old Spice before he left. It was always strongest on Brandy, the dog, who he would pat on his way out the door.

4. Apple Perfume. My mother had a bottle of apple perfume,  circa 1974. I don’t think that I ever smelled it on her (it was too fruity and garish, and she was far too stylish for that) but one day when my sister and I were in her bedroom with her while she was getting ready to go out, we found it in her top drawer. I fell in love with the scent. It was in a little glass apple bottle, and it was green colored. It smelled like green apple Jolly Ranchers. Mmm.

3. Christmas Candles. Ages before Yankee Candle began offering every smell under the sun captured in wax form, my mother had several red glass candle holders that she only put out at Christmas that smelled slightly of cinnamon. And dust. But I looked forward to seeing them every year, ’cause it meant that Christmas was coming soon. I wonder where those are now?

2. Apple Pie. I’m sure that this is on everyone’s list, and yes it is a cliche, I know, I know. But nothing else means Autumn to me like the smell of spiced apples and buttered crust. And guess who makes the best apple pie ever? Linda Frederick. Ha! You thought I was going to say my mom (who makes a mean apple pie, don’t get me wrong). But Linda had a special gift for Apple pie. It was incredible – sweet and apple-y.

1. Lilacs. Lilac is my favorite flower and the scent that most often makes me pause, lost in memory. We had an enormous Lilac bush right outside our back door, and my mother would denude it every year at just the right time and bring all of the blossoms inside. Every room had a bunch or two. You basically walked from cloud to cloud of lilac scent.

Well? What are your favorite scents?

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5 Responses to Scent Stories

  1. Sadie's Mama says:

    The smell of the ocean! I love, love, love it!!!! Even though my Uncle Neal who is such a know it all it ruins all conversation says, “What? It’s the smell of rotting seaweed and bacteria…caused by blah, blah, blah.” I don’t care what the smell comes from….I love it! So there Know it All Uncle Neal.

  2. Tony says:

    summer thunderstorms!
    garden vine tomatoes!

  3. Hubby says:

    Coffee brewing when I wake up in the morning.
    The ocean.

    What about smells you hate the most? I have a couple too unpleasant to mention here but Patchouli is near the top of the list.

  4. Sister says:

    I share most of my favorites with you.

    But I also love freshly laundered clothes and bread or cookies just coming out of the oven.

    Oh – and you can come over and mow the lawn anytime.

  5. Brenda M says:

    I remember coming home from church as a kid and smelling roast chicken baking. Mmmmm! Actually, whenever I walk into my parents’ house something smells good.

    Fresh tomatoes(like those in my backyard). Also reminds me of home.

    Wood smoke in the Fall/Winter…also fallen leaves and apple cider cooking on the stove.

    Old books. I love books.

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