I love that smell …
They say our strongest memories are linked to smells from our past. I have to say I agree.
We’ve recently been on again, off again about selling our cabin. In the process dressers and bed sheets and towels have been carted out of the cabin when we’ve decided to sell and taken back again when we’ve changed our minds, like an exercise routine.
This last ‘take them back to the cabin’ elicited memories. As I unpacked the towels and stacked them in the closet yet again, a scent wafted up that took my by surprise. Most people would call it a musty smell of an old house. They’d probably have thrown the towels in the wash with something artificially fragrant. I just kept stacking them in the closet. The feelings and images and memories those smells stirred up were of my grandparents’ homes.
Grandma and Grandpa Miller lived on a farm where the University of Lethbridge now stands – in a farmhouse that they built in the late 1930s, after leaving Saskatchewan with a whole mess of children and no real prospects for the future. They started with one room, which housed the coal-burning stove. They added one room at a time as they could afford to, and eventually had four bedrooms, a sitting room, and a large entrance/mudroom where the hand-turned milk separator stood. Last, but not least, they installed indoor plumbing – which they only used on the coldest of days in order to conserve water that had to be trucked in.
These times were hard. Grandpa not only farmed but also worked ‘in town’ at the flour mill. He walked to work, crossing a massive valley on the high level train bridge (316 feet high and one mile long – google ‘high level bridge Lethbridge’).
What I really remember is the smell, the musty, old-house smell, in the bedroom I used to sleep in … and the way Grandma Miller always had fresh smartie cookies (Smarties were like M&Ms) in the cookie jar or a cake just going into that old coal-burning stove, with the beaters just waiting to be licked. They didn’t have a telephone – but Grandma always knew when we were coming.
Grandma and Grandpa Kesler started in Picture Butte and moved to Lethbridge when they both retired. Their house in Lethbridge was a war-time house, two-story, with a bedroom, kitchen, living room, and bathroom on the main floor, and two bedrooms that had steeply sloped ceilings upstairs. The bedrooms always smelled musty. Grandma & Grandpa Kesler had a phone – so they always knew when we were coming. When I’d go to stay with them for a week over spring break or during the summer, our days were filled with making ‘boiled cocoa cookies’ (most people call them macaroons, my updated healthy version is here http://goodandnaturalrecipes.com/boiled-carob-cookies/) or making rag dolls. Grandpa would disappear to the garage and make little wooden boats, then take us to Henderson Lake or Park Lake to float our boats. In the summer we’d load up their homemade camper, pile into their old red pickup truck which was towing his homemade (he made a lot of things!) fishing boat and head out to go fishing for a few days.
When I smell that musty, old-house smell, I don’t think ‘old house’, I think Grandma’s house, cookies, rag dolls, little boats, and fishing. It’s warm and comforting. It’s the smell of love.