Smelling Memories

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I sincerely believe that smell is one of the most powerful senses we possess. Smells can trigger memories for us that instantly transport us to another place in time – either happy or sad. The smells in the country are some of the things I miss the most. The city offers its own smells, but not all of them are worth mentioning. A city usually provides more auditory stimulation than olfactory stimulation, but I suppose that depends on where in the city you’re living.

I was recently transported to my childhood by a smell that was wafting through our neighborhood. The other evening around dusk, I let our dog Brodie out in the backyard. He’s gotten a little clingy in the almost five years we’ve had him, so sometimes he needs someone to go outside with him to hold his paw. As I stepped onto our deck, I was immediately overcome with the sensation of being in my grandparents’ yard as a kid, being on my rope swing. It was the smell of fresh, wild garlic; and the sensation was instantaneous.

My grandparents had wild garlic growing all over their property. As a kid, I would grab handfuls of garlic blades just a few days after they started to sprout. They were pungent, juicy, and almost hot when I ate them. But they smelled so very good! When my grandpa would mow the front and backyards, that’s all you could smell – garlic.

In the city, some of our neighbors faunch at the bit all winter for their grass to grow; so a few have already started mowing. And that’s what I was smelling – freshly mowed, garlic blades. We’ve lived in the city for almost six years now, and I don’t recall smelling it since we’ve moved in. However, in that instant, I was a kid again, swinging on my rope swing while Papa mowed. (Gosh, I really miss him!)

The smells of fall can almost always take me back to my childhood. I grew up with a wood-burning stove; so when people burn real wood in their fireplaces here, I’m always transported to my grandparents’ home. However, I was “allergic” to wood smoke as a child; so while the smell is familiar and homey, I have traumatic memories of almost coughing up a lung on more than one occasion.

I love visiting my parents throughout the year. During spring and fall, I enjoy driving with my windows down once I reach the final road to their home. You can always smell freshly cut hay, which again reminds me of my papa and a lot of work during our summers. Hauling hay is a dirty, nasty job; but it took all of us to get it done. The local cattle farmers also fertilize their fields with chicken manure from local chicken houses once a year, and that’s a smell you never forget.

The city surprises me from time to time. That night on my deck brought back sweet, childhood memories; but I also know that my husband and I are making memories of our own right here in Little Rock. Since my parents still live in the country, I have the best of both worlds. I just hope that one day I will be able to pass on all of the things I love about country living to our future children.

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