Look Homeward

LouisvilleI can keep memorabilia; dishes, furniture, knick knacks, and books. I can take pictures of the rusty old house, its weatherworn shutters so incongruous under the new green roof. I can cradle my memories like flowers once pressed between dictionary pages. I can even recreate the flavors in my grandfather’s recipes.

But I cannot hold onto  the smells. The basement’s dankness. The musty cedar fragrance of my uncle’s old bedroom. The layers of soap in the bathrooms.

This is my deepest grief about the Louisville house. That when it is sold, I will never again close my eyes and inhale the mixture of fall leaves and motor oil that hung over the driveway or the combination of mulch and roses that exuded from Poppa’s gardens.

But then, with no one living in it these last four years, the place has fallen into disrepair. Even long after it was fixed, a refrigerator breakdown robbed two rooms of their aromas. We had to work to restore them, sitting around the dining room table telling my grandparents’ stories, raising the dead the only way we knew how until the whole house had the right odor again. But I’m sure the stale air returned with our departure.

I’ve been home two weeks. Though I know this is the right thing, to let strangers bring their own fragrances to that place, it is hard.

But some days, I am granted a moment of perfect sensory wholeness. This afternoon, when I came in from failing to mow, the kitchen was redolent with rosemary, red wine, and chicken. It was the precise bouquet that always greeted me when I walked in Mummum and Poppa’s back door, though I never knew them to them make this particular dish. I held my breath, trying not to waste those precious moments before my nose adjusted to the scent.

I wanted to breathe it in forever, because it smelled like a thing lost. It smelled like my grandfather’s kitchen. It smelled like home.



About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Look Homeward — 17 Comments

  1. You know, if I close my eyes and really concentrate, I can still smell my Mamaw’s house. It burned down I don’t know how many years ago, but I can still smell it in my head. I can’t explain how I do it, but I wish I could. For you.

    • Oh so very. My grandparents played such a pivotal role in my life. It’s one whose significance I have only cracked the surface of understanding, and I hate to let anything of theirs go.

  2. Oh, Jessie . . . smell memories are so strong . . . just a whiff of a match being struck will take me right to my Grandmother’s kitchen. Pond’s Cold Cream reminds me of her as well. Sometimes they catch us by surprise, don’t they. I wish you many such memories of you Poppa.

    thanks for linking up this week.
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  3. Every so often I catch a scent that reminds me of my grandparents house, the basement, the attic, that intrinsic “grandparent smell”. It brings back such great memories of my grandmother.
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  4. It’s so hard to let go of things with memories so securely attached to them. Smells are tied to so many memories. I smell lilacs and I’m in my gradparents’ yard as a kid. A few months ago, I bought Jergen’s original almond-scented lotion because it reminded me of my grandma.
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  5. Every time I go to my dad’s used car lot, I can smell the Coca Cola Bottling plant across the street (closed down since 1989). I can smell the BBQ that used to flare every Saturday afternoon (but hasn’t since 191).

    This was awesome from a sensory point of view…loved it
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  6. Smells for me can trigger the most vivid memories. White Shoulders perfume and Old Spice aftershave, A&D ointment all remind me of my grandparents. Lilacs are my childhood, salt water my life here in Florida. This was a wonderful reminder of those memorable scents. Thanks!
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  7. Like Andra, I can conjure the smell of my grandmother’s house. In my case, Gram passed over twenty years ago, and I was never in her house after she died.

    You can always go back, thank god for the memory of scent.
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  8. I love how the power of smell can take us back to a moment, a place, a memory. It is amazing. I understand this sentiment. We had to have my grandparents house leveled a few years ago because it was falling to pieces. I hated that.
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  9. Oh, I love this, Jessie. Your writing is so beautiful here. It’s amazing the long-forgotten places where our sense of smell can take us, eh? It’s beautiful to live it all in one quick inhale as you did in that moment when you took in the smell of home cooking.

    I know this must be difficult… and I miss you so much peace during this time. XOXO
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