November 26, 2015

The Good Smells Of Childhood


I was always a “noticing” kind of person. Good smells always put me in a certain frame of mind. Some were cozy, some exciting, some, downright appetite provoking.

This is just a sort of reminiscence of the ones I remember, in no particular order.

The smell of the people around me was most likely some of my first memories. Mom always smelled of cigarettes, coffee and on special occasions when I was very young there was the fragrance of Tweed perfume. I imagine she had it from before she was married and it always made me think of her life in Seattle where she lived with her parents before she married my dad. In later years she wore violet perfume on special occasions because we had found a source for it when we lived in Iowa and she would wear it when she knew we would be seeing each other. She also wore Charlie, which I didn’t especially like, but she did.

My grandma Yates always had the fragrance of face powder and toilet water. A sweet, older lady smell that was light and not overpowering. I don’t remember a particular fragrance my grandma Moline wore. I know she used Oil of Olay though because I remember seeing it on her dressing table.

My dad was fond of Mennen after shave, and his dad liked to wear the simple smell of “I just shaved”, as in the lingering odor of the shave cream he wiped off.

Where we lived, at the end of Dennis Street in Tumwater, Washington, was a seasonal mix of spring, summer and fall smells. I guess winter had a smell too, if you count the Christmas tree (a real one, cut in our back field) in the house. Spring seemed to erupt in our front yard with everything at once. The people who had lived in our house prior to us had planted bulbs and shrubs that were well-established by the time we moved in during the early 1950’s. I probably visit these memories of my childhood yard more often than I should, but this was part of “my world” and I cherish them.

It was the bulbs that came up first in the yard. Old ones like muscari and snow drops. Then, the irises would peek their pointy leaves up from the cold ground and signal the advent of more to come. All of this was followed quite closely by the buds on the quince bush, the sweet smell of the lilacs and the apple and cherry trees bursting into bloom.

Mom was never one to stifle our creativity, so she willingly let us raid her sewing cabinet for thread and needle to string leis of quince flowers as our own tribute to celebrating the spring equinox. The poor visitors to our house in spring were always gifted with sprigs of lilacs to put in makeshift vases until they could carry them home.

Summer brought the seasonal smells of dry grass, or the lovely aroma of wet dry grass after a summer shower. Although I’m writing about smells, I remember those summer mornings when I’d wake up and hear through the early morning summer stillness birds like the ubiquitous robins, the sparrows and chickadees.

I didn’t get much chance to go camping when I was younger, but I did get to sleep outside in the front yard in a sleeping bag with a comfy air mattress for cushion. Waking up in the early, early misty morning air was almost intoxicating. So close to the earth you can almost feel it breathe. I would just lay there and drink in the quiet.

Other smells come to mind too. That wonderful new baby doll plastic smell, the minty fragrance of Doublemint gum when grandma would open her purse when we were sitting in the pew at church on Sundays. How did she know I needed something to stave off ‘starvation’? I suspect she might have been treated to the same thing herself when she was growing up.

Is there nothing more warm and inviting than going through the door of someone’s house whose been cooking a turkey since the wee hours of the day? The sage smell of the dressing; the crispy skin done to perfection by a veteran cook; and all the other smells like candles burning, fresh homemade yeast biscuits coming out of the oven, a recently ironed white damask table cloth, and the blackberry cobbler tempting us to skip the main course and dive right into it.

My life has been constantly assailed by food smells, environmental smells like the brewery, a pulp mill, the smell of my dad when he would come home from working with wood all day and there was a mixture of good honest sweat along with sawdust. One facet of life, the smells, but oh so memorable.

© Carol Yates Wilkerson 2015 – All Rights Reserved

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: Outdoor Decorations

Outdoor Decorations

This is it, the Wilkerson house with outdoor decorations for 2010. Of all the places we have lived in the last 40 years, this house is the only one I remember where we’ve put up lights outside. We really go all out if the grandkids are visiting, but in the spirit of “keeping Christmas in our hearts” we try to do something cheery for our neighborhood too.

When it gets closer to Christmas we get in the car in the evening and cruise around the neighborhoods near us looking at all their decorations. Some people really go all out with massive lights, animated figures and some combine it with a food drive for their street.

I’m participating in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 sponsored by Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers fame.  Won’t you join us as we blog about our memories through the month of December?

You might also like to read:

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010: The Tree

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 – Holiday Foods

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2010 – Christmas Cards

Wordless Wed – November sky

November sky 2007

I walked out on our back deck tonight (27 Nov 2007) and took this photo just using my Fuji digital camera and the flash. For whatever reason, this is how it turned out. Kind of “other worldly” in a way. The tree in the middle is a Tamarack, one to the left is our red maple, and the Douglas firs to the right are quite a ways away (they are about 70 feet tall).

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