Thursday, December 15, 2011

Scented Memories

Grams rarely wears perfume or cologne. My sense of smell varies greatly. Some days I smell everything much too acutely and some days I can't smell much of anything at all. If I happen to be wearing scent on one of those "hyper smell" days, I smell it all day long and it eventually gives me a headache. So, except for now and then on special occasions, I avoid wearing scent at all.

I also have an issue with those plug-in aroma warmer thingies. While I really like the way some of them smell, some of them trigger an allergic reaction and my head gets so stopped up that it takes weeks to go away. That allergic reaction happens even though I take two allergy medications every day, just to be able to breathe in South Texas. It is really a problem for me when I substitute in a classroom where the teacher has a plug-in scent. I usually unplug them and set them aside while I'm there. I try to remember to plug them back in at the end of the day when I'm leaving, but sometimes I forget. I suspect that it ticks some of them off.

In my experience, the olfactory sense is the quickest way to bring back pleasant memories. The smell of pine and cedar takes me right back to my childhood in the piney woods of Northeast Texas. Eucalyptus reminds me of my sister-in-law Nancy's house which is always cozy and welcoming. Fresh cut grass reminds me of summertime mornings spent lying in the damp grass watching clouds go by. Aqua Velva, Lectric Shave, and Old Spice will always be associated with how my Dad smelled after his afternoon bath. Fresh-baked cornbread has a strong association with my Mom's kitchen. And a whiff of Aramis men's fragrance has me recalling that first boyfriend back in the 1970s.

A couple of weeks ago we attended our community's free performance of Handel's Messiah at First United Methodist Church. It was wonderful. I can't say enough how much I love this annual gift to the community. This is an all volunteer chorus that gets together annually just to do this one performance. I've attended many years.

Grandad and I are in our late fifties. Suffice it to say that we were among the youngsters in the audience at this performance. We were surrounded by a crowd that I would say were mostly in their seventies. There was a definite prevailing scent of "little old lady" cologne. I don't know exactly what that scent is, but it's distinct and consistent. Anywhere there are lots of older ladies, there is that scent. It's not unpleasant, but in large quantities and closed spaces it can be overwhelming.

I use scented candles to add a pleasant aroma to our home. I keep one in each bathroom and one in either the living room or dining room. The living room and dining room are really the same room. Our house was built in the 80s and has a great room. I vary the scent according to the season. Right now I have apricot in one room, acorn and fig in one room, and marshmallow fireside in one room. Before the family arrives for Christmas, I'll switch the one in the living room for fresh balsam. It smells like a Christmas tree and, since we use an artificial tree and garlands, lends the scent of Christmas to the house. I think the marshmallow fireside and fresh balsam will be a great combination in the great room.

Where was I going with this post? Oh yeah, now I remember! Last year for Christmas, the kids gave me a Kindle electronic book reader. I love and adore it. As of today I am carrying 92 books in my purse all the time. I can take it out and read any time and any where. It even marks my place automatically and when I'm at school I can password protect it so teenagers don't read it when I'm distracted. (They've been known to do that.) I've really grown attached to my Kindle. At first I had to adjust to not holding a book and not turning pages. But those adjustments came pretty easily. I got used to the lack of heft and stopped missing the tactile element of books. The only thing I really miss is the smell of a book. The scent of a book carries with it a real sense of anticipation: the joy of meeting new characters, of understanding their lives, of traveling on their life's journeys with them for a while. You just don't get that with a Kindle. I actually noticed that someone is marketing an "areosol e-book enhancer" called The Smell of Books. It comes in several variations including New Book Smell, Classic Musty, Eau You Have Cats, Scent of Sensibility, and Crunchy Bacon Scent. I have to say, some of those fall in the category of disgusting for me, but to each his own. And, no, I won't be buying any aerosol book enhancers.

I recently received a copy of Best Kept Secret by Amy Hatvany. It's the January choice for the Great Books Book Club and they gave away a few copies. I was thrilled to be one of the recipients. When it came in the mail I opened the package and was immediately drawn in by the scent of a freshly printed book. It smelled of paper, ink, and glue. For me, that smell brings with it the hope of an interesting story that promises to transport me to another place or another time when I read it. I found myself sitting and hugging this book to my chest as I inhaled it's essence.

With the exception of a few leather-bound volumes and a couple of autographed copies, I don't save books. The subtropical climate we live in makes them get musty and smell of mold and dust. This is just one more allergen I don't need. Plus, I sell them at Half Price Books and use the money to buy books for Our Little Princess and Her Highness.  It's a good deal for me and a treat for them.

I hope your holiday season is full of pleasant scents and wonderful memories.


  1. Have you ever noticed that most men who wear cologne tend to bathe in it? And this is not an age thing either! I hate when I have to get on an elevator with one of them -- or get in it after them.

    I'm like you. I love fragrances but gentle ones, not the ones that are so overpowering your eyes water. Fresh baked smells are always my favorites! And new born baby smell. It is the best!

  2. Handel's Messiah is easily my favorite work of music ever. Hearing it live must have been such a treat!

  3. I adore my Kindle! I wish it had a little meter on it, so I could see how many hours of enjoyment I've gotten from it. It's got to be hundreds! Thanks for your kind comments on my blog.