A Rose by any Other Name…

I’ve been thinking about smelling a lot lately… I’ll give you a minute while you figure out just how I meant that to be taken… Let me know when you’re through………… ūüėČ

Our memories can be stirred up by any one of our senses. Hearing certain songs can return us to our youth; those songs that stir up memories of being 16, hanging out with friends, killing time on lazy summer afternoons. Certain colors can stir up memories of long walks on an autumn day, or a walk through a garden in spring. There are tastes that remind us of Christmas, or other¬†big events in our lives. They say, though, that the sense that is most closely tied to our memory is smell. All it takes is one small whiff of a familiar fragrance, either good or bad, and we’re right back in a situation we experienced years before. The memories that get stirred up by smells are instantly vivid, and we find ourselves all tied up in something from years ago. For some reason, this reality has been stirring in me a lot lately. I thought I’d share some of odors that take me back…

I know many people love the smell of freshly cut grass. Not me; I think it totally reeks! That’s probably because I’m very allergic to grass,¬†and¬†my allergy¬†is especially bad when¬†the grass is¬†freshly cut. To me, fresh cut grass makes me think of hives, sneezes, and adrenaline shots in the E.R.¬† Not exactly on my top ten list! This came to mind because it’s spring, and the smell of fresh cut grass is everywhere. Each time I step outside and smell that distinctive aroma, I’m a kid again, riding my bike down the street, sneezing and wheezing, hoping to get in some fun before my mom realizes I’m sick and I have to go inside. Living on 5 acres of pasture land, I smell this a lot! I’m a big fan of closed windows and air conditioning in the spring…

Another smell I encountered recently was moth balls. I didn’t even know they were still used! I also didn’t know I had any memories centered around moth balls. But, as I unassumingly sauntered into someplace the other day, I smelled something funny that I couldn’t quite place, but recognized. All of a sudden I was in my grandparents’ basement, smelling that distinctive odor, hearing the odd crackling sound as I walked across the ancient linoleum tiled floor. I could feel the coolness of the floor under my feet, and see the little shelves in the boiler room where the fruit of their hobby as rock hounds lay, all labeled and freshly tumbled. I remembered the rows and rows of Mason jars lining shelves near the stairs, filled with an array of home-canned veggies and fruit grown in Grandpa’s famous garden. I also remembered the laundry shoot, and the trouble we got into using it as an intercom between the main floor and the basement one day!

Then there was the day a couple weeks ago that I¬†bought some pine mulch (which we used to call bark dust) to dress up an unsitely corner of our property. I had pulled out all the weeds, done my best to smooth out the way too squishy ground, and was beginning to open the bags of mulch to spread over the freshly cleaned area. As I tore a hole¬†through the first plastic bag, the aroma wafted up, taking me back 40 years to Oregon. There I was, a kid, watching as my parents spread this wonderfully smelly stuff several inches deep under and around the rhododendron bushes. I love the smell, the color, and the little hairy pieces, which make me wonder how something as hard as wood can be hairy! This is the one time of the year that our flower beds look great. We aren’t really the yardwork type of people!

A more quirky fragrance that got stirred up the other day was hot pavement. It’s not really just the pavement, I guess. On a normal day you don’t really smell pavement. The smell I like is the heavy aroma that wafts up from the pavement on a hot summer day just as it is beginning to rain. This smell takes me back to a hot July day when I was about 12 or 13. We are in the process of canning something. I don’t remember what; I just remember that our un-air conditioned house¬†has gotten¬†even hotter and steamier with all the giant pots of boiling water it takes to can produce. I¬†am taking a break for a couple minutes on the front steps, and it starts to rain. Not just any rain, but the giant, heavy drops you really only get during the summer heat. As the drops hit the hot pavement, they spread their¬†individual puddles of water, and an aroma starts to rise towards me. It is a hot, dusty smell, but I love it. I love it because it heralds the coming rain, which will undoubtably cool off the summer afternoon, and make the remainder of the day in the kitchen more bearable. The smell doesn’t last very long; once the pavement is completely wet, the smell is gone, and all that remains is the clean scent of the rain. I like that smell, too, but that hot, wet pavement is the aroma of promised relief.¬†What can¬†beat that?

There are other aromas; ones¬†that I haven’t smelled in a very long time, but can still remember. How about the smell of Play-Doh? I’m not sure how to describe that smell, but who can forget it? Another odd childhood smell is a Slinky. It’s not what you play with a Slinky for, but I bet you remember it, too; especially the way that smell hangs on your hands for a couple hours after you’re done playing. ¬†Of course,¬†the aroma¬†brings to mind the bouncy little jingle and the unique sound of the Slinky, as well. Nothing else smells or sounds quite like a Slinky!

Then, of course, the smell we all started out with: tempra paint. That’s that thick, goopy paint they give you to use in kindergarten and first grade, along¬†with those huge, floppy headed paint brushes. Remember that smell? It’s a heavy, thick, wet smell, that puts me right back at Hoover Elementary School, in Mrs. Rands’ class in room 3. I’m wearing one of my dad’s old shirts, worn backwards, of course, as a painting smock. I put a yellow quarter-circle up in the left corner of my paper and carefully paint nice,¬†straight lines radiating out from it, and there is my sun. Next comes the nice blue stripe across the top of the paper for the sky, then the green stripe¬†across the bottom for the grass. I move on to paint a house, and am a little disappointed that there is no such thing as pink tempra paint. Next I paint my tree, with a straight brown trunk and a green puff on top which really looks more like a flower than a tree. Before the school year ends, I learn by watching my classmates that you can use the blue paint to make loopy W’s in the sky and say that¬†they are¬†flying birds. Pretty cool, huh?

So there you have it: a run-down of my random aroma memories. I guess as things go, none of this is very important, but it’s fun to think about. Some of the memories are fun, some sad, and some worse than that, but they are part of what makes up me. It’s kinda fun to be able to take a random 15 second break in my day and remember when…



Filed under Random Ramblings

3 responses to “A Rose by any Other Name…

  1. brian

    That’s a ton of typing for 15 seconds! I love what you wrote.

    As I sit here thinking about evocative aromas, I am struggling to identify one that isn’t some baked goodie or other. Perhaps that at least partially explains my girth?

    When’s lunch?

  2. Um, how about the smell of crawdad remains fermenting in the garbage can for several days?

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