Friday, 12 October 2012

The smell of home

Yesterday, I got the box my dad sent me.  Inside was the long woolen cape that my mom had bought a few months before she passed. She never got to wear the cape, so for the past year and a half it's hung in the closet of my childhood home.

By all rights, this unworn cape should smell of wool or stores or that nasty new-clothes-smell that so many things seem to have.  But as soon as I opened the box, I was enveloped in the scent of home.  That unique mixture of fresh Florida air and a slight hint of moisture and the wood of my parents' closets and something else I can't define.

I held the cape up to my nose, and I breathed in.  And I cried.

I cried for the home my dad is selling...the home of my childhood.  My root in my world that has seen too many moves, too many temporary dwellings.  I cried for the never-to-be chance to have a good, loving relationship with my mom, and for the good-byes she wouldn't let me say. I cried for my dad, knowing after our summer together how very hard this packing up and clearing out is on him.

And I cried because I know that once that smell of home fades from this cape, it's gone forever.

When I came back after the summer, I hauled with me a large white coverlet that used to live on the guest room bed.  Part of my reason was that looking at it reminded me of being a kid, and seeing that always perfect white coverlet in the guest room that waited for the next visitor...my grandmother, a cousin, an aunt or uncle.  But mostly I brought it back because it carried that same wonderful smell of home.

Only weeks after returning to Texas, my dog jumped up on the coverlet with muddy paws, and I had to wash the coverlet.  With that wash, the smell of home vanished.

Now in the final days of packing up for his move, my dad found this cape and sent me one last breath of home. The house is nearly empty there in Florida, so there will be no more surprises to bring me that scent.

If it was a look, I could photograph it.  A sound could be recorded. But that scent...that most evocative of our senses...there is no way to capture it.

So for now it hangs in my closet. And I will inhale that bit of home every chance I get until the Texas air takes it away.  And on that day, I know I'll cry again.

Because then, when my childhood home is someone else's house and the smell of home is gone for good, all of it (my home, my mom, my childhood) will exist only in my memory.

8 comments:

Diana Beatty said...

I don't have any grand thing to say, but I just wanted you to know I'm listening and can understand and relate with how you feel!

seeker said...

Thank you Diana. Grand words not needed. It's nice to know someone is out there understanding.

Kassie N. said...

As time and Texas air take away the scent you visual memory will will improve like they say a deaf man can't hear but he know more about everything around him because he can see. Then a blind man can't see but he knows where he is because he can hear it better then you can. So the smell may fade but the memories won't.

seeker said...

Thank you, Kassie. I hope so.

Unknown said...

It's so hard to lose those last bits of tangible things that tie us to our childhood home. I moved a lot as a kid, and I don't have that point of reference any more. Now I look at pictures and remember. Or, I'll smell an odor from cooking or a certain flower and it will trigger a memory. Just know that no one can steal your memories and that remembering means that childhood happy home will live forever.

June @ Coffee Under The Umbrella said...

I don't have anything really comforting to say, either...but I read one of your past entries about your mom and her anger. I momentarily started wondering if we had the same mom! How sad for you that she chose to be isolated from her children at her death. This line in particular touched me: "I cried for the never-to-be chance to have a good, loving relationship with my mom..." because I also experienced this when my mother died 16 years ago this November.

Please know that you are not alone and while I don't have your feelings of homesickness at this moment, certainly, I sympathize. Thinking of you.

Kristin said...

Oh, Lindsay, I feel for you! I collected a bunch of things from my grandmother's house when she passed away, and I wanted that scent of her house to last forever. Alas, it did not. Big hugs.

THE mom said...

I have this bag that my grandma sent to me last year from back home in Hawaii...in a plastic baggy...to keep the smell. I know its not there anymore but that's how I held on to my HOME.

That smell...it smells of carefree times, happy times, and maybe some sad times. The smell of life that only you know. I got super emotional reading this. I know your heart aches, but the memories are there..will always be. You just have to think about it and the smell will come right back. And memories are good :-)