The breeze shifted the other day, and something made me think of home.Some faint fragrance triggered childhood memories. We live in such a hyper-visual age that it’s easy to forget how impactful our sense of smell is. Can you smell a memory? I can, and if you close your eyes and think back, I bet you can too.
Cecil was my Step-Grandfather, and I called him Cecil but he was my Grandpa. Cecil worked on restoring cars in his retirement. He wore short-sleeved button up shirts with pearl snaps, and the pockets were always filled with peppermints. Wherever he went, his trusty pack of rescue dogs followed. He was a Texas brisket pit-master. When I hugged Cecil, I inhaled him and so many of his scents. In a breath I was flooded with peppermint, Old Spice, mesquite ash, and dog dander. All of the things he loved were present in his scent. One whiff was never enough, so I breathed him in deeper and as I did, motor oil and his homemade apple butter further filled my senses. He was a man of few words but his natural aroma filled the space around him with palpable love.
Hollis Luther was my Grandfather on my Father’s side. I called him Pappaw (pronounced Papall, ya’ll). He was an animated soul and a handsome devil. If you had the time to “sit a spell”, he’d regale you with the tales of his youth. I remember his stories well and wish that I could hear that shweet,shlow, East Texas drawl again (East Texas S’s sound like soft whistles). I miss his stories and the voice he narrated them in, but when I truly remember him, I remember his smell. Like Cecil, Pappaw never let his old age make him idle. When he wasn’t tending to his maters’ taters’ and peppers, he was chopping wood to be placed in the wood-burning stoves of his forest home. Pappaw didn’t just bring home the bacon, he made the bacon…and the eggs and the biscuits. Mornings at his country home were magical to me, and I was always the first one of my family to wake up. Before I could wipe the sleep from my eyes, my tummy was growling in response to the smell of breakfast being made. I knew it was being made by my favorite person, so a smile as wide as Texas was already spread across my face before I entered the kitchen. Like clockwork, Pappaw would be hovering above cast iron skillets with a happy grin that mirrored mine. “Morning sister”, he’d drawl as he quickly followed up with “How’d you like your eggs”? The answer was scrambled. The answer was always scrambled. His next question was always “Want me to fix you a cup of coffee? It’ll put hair on your chest.” He got a kick out of watching me scrunch up my nose and shake my head no, because I was six, or seven, or 10. That joke never got old to him. It never got old to me either.
Apple butter and chimney smoke; biscuits, bacon and coffee. These are the things that smell like love to me. I wish I could have a cup of coffee with Pappaw now. I’ve grown to love it the way he did.
What smells remind you of love and home?