The Scent of Us

Queen Anne's Lace and Cup Flower

As summer comes to an end, I’m thinking about scents. The smell of freshly mowed grass, mint or basil being picked off the plant growing on the deck, the purple cone flowers, and native cup plant growing along the trail will all soon be gone. When the frost come and we retreat inside, all we have are indoor scents. Though they may not be as beautiful as those of summer, they are no more forgettable.

I still remember the smells of the houses that surrounded ours growing up. There was the sweet homey smell of our neighbor to our right, the somewhat cold scent of the house down the block, and the oddly familiar scent of my aunt and uncle’s kitty corner from our house across the park.

Next door at my godparents’ house, it was like they had been baking gingerbread all day. The scent welcomed you like a hug. After that I’d lose the scent to another. Some sort of sauce bubbling on the stove, so different than what Mom made.

At my best friend’s house, the scent lingered longer. It was sharp and sterile like the surroundings. Things here were kept in straight lines. Her mom had been a model once, her dad. an army General. Her mom told us that it was important to stand up straight and keep our legs together. Models in her day were required to stand still and hold a quarter between their knees. Whenever her mom walked, I expected a quarter to fall to the floor.

My aunt and uncle’s was somewhere between the two extremes. More like home. They were loud and unruly like us. The scent of the house was hard to characterize, but something like meat or stew. Possibly mixed in with dirty socks. They had 9 kids, just like us, so it was probably the scent of people. Could the smell here be a variation of our own? Could it come from our genes? Or more likely the similarity of the food we ate.

When I moved into my current home, it was brand new. I was the first person to live here. It had sort of a plastic-y smell to it that I thought came from the new building materials and cleaning supplies. But now, more than eight years later, I still get a whiff of that scent every now and again.

I now live here with my husband. His teen-age son stays sometimes too. Both came with smells of their own. I wonder what people smell when they enter and what it tells them about us. Sometimes I know what it smells like and open the windows and doors wide to let in the scent of summer, But beneath it all, the scent of us remains.


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  1. Cheryl | TimeToCraft

    The mere whiff of a scent can send me tumbling back into a memory.You seem to remember each house so well. I find it’s the scent that is my trigger rather than the other way round. Love the idea of the quarter falling. I had a friend whose aunt would fit the same description. #MMBC

    • Catherine Lanser

      Thank you for stopping by Lorna. I’m glad this post got you thinking – hopefully back to a lovely place!

  2. Carol

    Scents can be a strong trigger to take us back to a person, place, or time. I like my home to have a “clean” smell but can’t describe it to you. I do love the scent of cooking apples, cinnamon, coffee even though I don’t drink it, and bread. I’ve never thought of the scents of homes where I grew up except my best friend’s home. Her father smoked cigars and my mother would wrinkle her nose when I came home. She did NOT like cigar smoke. #MMBC

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