“Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.” Diane Ackerman
Warning: This first paragraph is a big ‘ole list and some whining. . .it is not necessary to the post, but it made me feel better to write it. YOU can feel free to skip it.
This afternoon and evening, I did many things. I attended a meeting after school, then stopped at Wal-Mart for chocolate and cauliflower and bananas, and two Red Box movies then stopped at Pizza Hut for. . .pizza, then stopped at Sonic to get a gift card for Thad’s teacher (to go with some of the chocolate) even though TODAY was his last day, then I called Stephanie (I think), then I called Carolyn, then I got home and changed clothes and ate pizza and chocolate and carrots with my family and watched Voyage of the Dawntreader and continued a letter and sat on the swing with Tony and downloaded “School’s Out” by Alice Cooper for Thad along with some Powerhouse 5,000 songs he wanted, and talked to Victoria about how lovely the ribbon was that she tied on the Hershey Bar/Thank you cards for HER teachers (more of that Wal Mart chocolate stop), and a little later I became very unhappy with my children because I asked them to help me by picking things up off the floor for 15 minutes (I set a timer when we do this) while I took a shower. . .and Thad’s shoulders drooped and he looked as though I has asked him to kill one of our cats, and Victoria picked up a paper off the counter and began reading it while I enumerated the many things I had done today that supported them giving me 15 minutes of their time and Thad wilted and Victoria read and I said, “Forget it. . .” and walked away to take my shower. I’m still steaming somewhat.
BUT in between the last bit of chocolate news and the getting mad part, I was FINALLY able to go for a walk. Tony sat on the address sign while I walked the straight stretch in front of our house–about a quarter mile back and forth. We held a conversation in bits and snatches when we were in hearing/speaking distance.
I mentioned our dead pine trees, and he told me about the window-boarder-upper’s grand daughter (long story), and each time I got to the end of Lake where it runs into Clark, I smelled something from my childhood. More specifically, it was a scent from Nanny and Grandaddy’s house–but outside their house. It was sweet and pungent and not at all unpleasant, and it was swiftly followed by the scent of creosote–another childhood smell.
The creosote I could find immediately–it was some relatively new telephone and electric poles that had been in the 90+ degree heat all day long. That one was easy. The other scent was just as strong but more elusive to identify. I thought of the smells I associate with my Daddy’s parents–saffron rice, Chips Ahoy cookies and coffee, fig leaves, horses, Rosemilk lotion, Lava soap, and this sweet, flowery smell that was more than likely a combination of various country things like blackberry vines and gardenias and honeysuckle.
After my third pass on that end of the road, I mentioned it to Tony. I had been puzzling it out in my mind to no avail, so I said,
“I smell a scent from my childhood at the end of the road.”
“Nope. Something sweet and pungent with a kick to it–then creosote. I can’t figure it out,” Walk, walk, walk, walk, then over my shoulder. . .”though skunk wasn’t a bad guess.”
“Ummmm. . .nope–no pig guts. . .deer guts, maybe,” step, step, step, step “duck feathers. . .” step, step, step, step “squirrel hair. . .” step, step, step, step “but this is sweet and flowery.” Out of distance.
On my last pass, Victoria and Thad had joined me (before the 15 minute picking up debacle of ’11). As we passed through the veil of my childhood wafting on the air, I asked, “Do you smell that? That sweet smell?” Both of them answered in the affirmative. . .they asked what it was. I told them I couldn’t place it. We even stepped onto the side of the road toward our neighbor’s fence to see if there were any blossoms that night give it away. But there were none to be found.
“It smells nice,” said Victoria. And it did. I did smell nice–and it pulled at my heart, and it made me think about all the ways God helps us to remember.
I am no longer steaming. The children are in bed asleep. I will go and kiss them and smell their heads–Victoria’s clean one and Thad’s dirty one.