May 16, 2010 “My Nose Remembers”
May 16, 2010 “My Nose Remembers”
Smell, scent, odor, and aroma can all mean exactly the same thing. They almost always mean essentially the same thing. However, they can also have very different meanings.
I can smell the scent of certain things and memories just flood in; sharp, vivid memories. They are always pleasant memories too. The truth is, I don’t think I have very many bad memories; not terrible ones anyway.
I can get a whiff of the smell of cooking cabbage (not something that I would call an “aroma”, it’s just a smell to me) and I am transported back to my childhood on a summer day in my grandmother’s hot, steamy kitchen. The pots on the stove are cooking and the smells are a mixture of aromas and odors. The steam from the pots of cabbage and, maybe, potatoes, the aroma of fried chicken wafting from a large, black, iron skillet rising to mix with the faint smell of cigarette smoke and old dust makes a wonderful memory in my mind. I never liked the smell of cooking cabbage, and I have never smoked cigarettes or liked old dust, but they are all part of the memory of Mamaw,s house.
The odor of pine cleaner, like Pine-Sol, and floor wax can elicit memories that immediately take me back to my elementary school days at Carter’s Valley Elementary School. In the mornings when we first got off the bus and entered the building, the smells would still linger from the night’s cleaning and waxing as we would take a run and sudden stop to slide across the freshly waxed, dark brown tile floor, right past the Pine-Sol ladened bathroom and into Mrs. McKinney’s second grade class room, where the smell of chalk dust, sharpened pencils, and text books hung in the piney air…our day had begun.
Tonight, while I was at work, the odor of metal cleaner and machine oil floated down from the machine shop and I was reminded of my uncle James Harris and his garage. I would go there with my dad quite a lot when I was a child. They were always working on cars and building this or that. My dad and his brother, James, were both good mechanics and many a car was repaired down in that garage. It was a most curious place for a young boy to poke around in and it was permeated with the odors, smells, and aromas that made a boy of 8 or 9 years imagine all sorts of projects. First was the smell of old, burnt, oil mixed with gasoline and kerosene emanating from the great black grease pit in the middle of concrete floor. The cars would be parked over the five foot deep pit so the underside could be easily worked on and the fittings and bearings greased. It was black as tar down in there with all the spilled oil and the grease stains. But, it smelled like somewhere men belonged…working with tools and the strength of their hands and arms. I went down in there a few times to look up into the underside of 3,000 pounds or more of car sitting two feet above my head…it was a little scary and the smells were much more intense under there, and even more so when the engine was running and I could feel the heat and smell the exhaust. The pit was not the only source of smells in that old garage, not by a long shot. It was filled with all kinds of tools and equipment. There was more than one welder with the smells that went with them…my uncle was a metal worker by trade; he could fabricate anything out of iron or steel. The smell of burnt, rusty iron and acetylene was always in the heavy air of the garage. There were all sorts of wood working tools too, like table saws, sanders, hand saws etc. and along with all that were piles of sawdust and the aroma of pine, walnut, linseed and varnish which was in sharp contrast to the smells of the pit. In the winter you could add to all that the wonderful aromas of a wood-stove fire and percolating coffee….Man, those were heady days for a young boy.
I could go on and on about the smells of fried potatoes and onions popping and crackling from an iron skillet, or of the memories of soup beans and cornbread (from that same iron skillet) and coffee that my aunt would make up in the house while the men were working on a car or building cabinets down in the garage.
I won’t go into the many memories of campgrounds early in the morning with some of the favorite aromas of my life; the smell of the smoke from of a newly stoked campfire while the morning fog is still hanging heavily in the wet leaves of the trees, or the sounds of the campers all around as they stir to life on a crisp morning…their cup of hot coffee in one hand and in the other a stick for poking the fire to a blaze, while the savory fragrance of bacon and sausage, biscuits and gravy and eggs engulfs the whole campground to awaken a young boy to some of the best smells and most wonderful memories of his life. My nose remembers all these things and so many more….MMMMMM, I think I smell my supper on the stove….Ahhhhh Memories!