anecdotes / family

The Smell of Childhood Memories

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?


20 thoughts on “The Smell of Childhood Memories

  1. Ahhhhh…yes the aromas of our past. There’s nothing quite like it. I remember going my my grandmothers house while she was cooking. The aromas of whatever she was cooking wafted through the house. I can remember the aroma of polenta to this day, and it reminds me of her house. Such fond memories!

  2. Wow, my memories, based on smell are not nearly a poignant with a city background and a mother who didn’t cook very well. This post did take me back to my grandfather’s aftershave, though!

  3. Cities have great smells too: wet asphalt just as it begins to rain, street meat from carts that I wouldn’t dare eat from, the bedding section in a department store…

  4. Beautiful post Kim 🙂
    I have for sure many smells that remind me of different things. I love the smell of the sea. And cinnamon (that reminds me to the American malls :D)

  5. Southern old men are the best at being pawpaws. ^_^ I had one for a grandfather too, but he always smelled like Irish Spring, garden/dirt, and Sweet Stripes peppermints.

  6. My grandmother would fry my grandfathers eggs in a lake of bacon grease. Breakfast was always bacon, eggs and biscuits, maybe a little gravy depending on how much bacon grease was available. My dad like fried grits, coarse and white (polenta as it were).

    My grandfather used to smoke a pipe and Roi Tan cigars held in a rubber tip to chew on when he smoked. In the boat fishing you could always smell those cigars.

    It’s a scientific fact that smell is the strongest sense to induce a memory, good or bad.

    Thanks for visiting and liking my post.

    • And thank you for visiting mine and sharing your wonderful memories.
      Grits are huge here in NC (where I live now). Neither of my grandfathers smoked a pipe, but I think it’s one of the best smells on earth; its fragrance is so sweet, rich and homey.

      • So I didn’t have to explain mush, chilled, peeled, rolled in cornmeal and fried to you, huh? Kind of like a corn-based Texas french fry. There used to be a cafeteria in town back in the, well let’s say last century. They served it with the option of syrup on it. Not bad actually, but I prefer it without.

      • I actually did overlook the fried part but I can imagine it, due to the polenta reference. I managed an Italian restaurant for about 5 years, and we served fried polenta cakes. What state do you live in?

      • The nature of my blog is such that I need to maintain some public anonymity. Only one family member who knows me is aware of my blog. I have a family, church, neighbors and fellow employees who know nothing of it. I’m not ashamed of it but, sadly, knowledge of it would be uncomfortable for most of them. I have no Facebook presence for much the same reason, Maybe three long-term blog buddies know where I live and what I do. But they don’t know my true name either. I had someone try to hunt me down on the web once in the past. For as much as I speak of on the blog and in email with some followers, I am a very private, introverted person. If a photo of me exits on the internet, it’s not by my doing.

  7. Pingback: The Sunshine Blogger Award | Michael's Origins

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