Monday, February 27, 2012

I've Always Been a Smelly Person

No, not in the sense you're thinking, wink wink...

Okay, we’re all aware that scents can trigger some of our strongest memories, right? Most times, it’s a good scent triggering a good memory, and a bad smell triggering a bad memory.Well, I was thinking about this the other day, and thinking of the smells that reminded me of home. I came up with some good ones. The smell of chicken frying and angel biscuits in the oven will always remind me of Granny’s house. And fresh-cut grass reminds me of life before my parents divorced, when I’d be in my room at our first house, windows open, the scent of the grass pouring in while my parents were mowing.

And then I started thinking about…cow poop. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. My Grandpa raises beef cattle, and the smell of grass-fed cattle leavings reminds me of being on their farm, walking out to the end of the ridge to look over the cliff at the farms and houses on the other side, and the beautiful view, especially in the spring.

Thinking about my Dad’s parents and their farm led me to thinking about my Mom’s parents, my Mammaw and Pappaw. We lived with them after my parents divorced, and the smell that reminds me of them is…wait for it…smoke. Two kinds: cigarette smoke and wood smoke. They both smoked, so everything in the house smelled like smoke, all the time. I didn’t even realize how much like smoke I smelled until I went to college and could smell the difference. Then in the fall & winter, we fired up the wood stove. I can’t even tell you how many times I had to plug up the crack under my door and open my window because Pappaw had stoked the fire up so much it had gotten to 80 degrees inside. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, there would always be several people standing out on the porch, cooling off.

Some of these smells are ones I can experience down here in Georgia. I get all at once nostalgic and disgusted when I am behind someone in traffic and smell the smoke coming into my vents from their car. I will admit to inhaling deeply, wanting to remember. I know it’s not the prettiest (or healthiest!) picture in the world, but I do it! Plus, we don’t get to smell wood smoke much down here, because it rarely gets cold enough for that. Even the fresh-cut grass smell is different here because of how dry it stays. I have to grab my memories when and where they’re available.

What scents bring back memories for you? And are your memories fleeting ones, like a passing memory of a place or time? Or are there some scents that make you as deeply nostalgic as mine, putting you back into a specific spot, making you wish you could relive that moment in your life just one more time? I know I’d give anything to smell the smoke and feel the heat of the wood stove at Pappaw’s again, because that would mean he was there in the house, throwing wood on the fire, ready to tease me about something or even just ask me how I was doing. At least I have lots of good memories to “come home to”! Here's a picture of him...his birthday would've been this month, on the 15th; were he alive this year, he would've turned 94. My Pappaw, Jesse Willard Back (who my daughter, Jessie, is named after)...


  1. Always loved your grandparents :) Your Papaw, Jessie, was always teasing me about something. I have great memories of being at their house in my younger days. Your Mamaw was such a good cook. And one of the things I remember most... they were always tolerant (even enjoyed) having a house full of rowdy kids and we always had a great time there.

    1. I'll never forget him calling you JarMeanus, LOL...they loved y'all like you were one of the grandkids!