The scent of childhood
like my baby
I buried my nose
in his neck
his warm baby smell
replaced by the scent
of fresh air, sunshine
the sweet sweat
of growing child.
I was thrown back
to when I was young
from the comfort
for I knew
first day of school
only 12 colors
still lusting for that box of 64.
White paste in jars
dipped with tongue depressors
smelling of spearmint and cloves
they said came from dead horse hooves
still we sneaked finger dabs of anyway.
fresh from the can
bright primary colors
that soon turned a muddy gray
a life lesson not to be forgotten
rolled shaped and smashed
to be reused over and over
never as pretty as that first time
a memory so lasting
I can hold my palms
close to my face
and smell it
When you’re in a new place, new smells (or lack of old smells) are always in the forefront of your mind. When I first moved here I mentioned to my mother in law that home smelled like Eucalyptus. So she bought me a eucalyptus candle for Christmas. It was a sweet gesture, and a very fancy candle, made with natural oils.
I still liked it of course, but the thing smelled fake and perfumy. Not at all like burying your nose in the soft fur of a Koala. It was then I realised that Koalas don’t smell only like eucalyptus, they also have a gentle earthy musk about them which enhances the eucalyptus overtones.
It is a sad fact of human existence that the smells of childhood can not be perfectly replicated, because they are a conglomeration of smells. It’s never just one thing, but many combined.
Smell is the sense most closely connected to memory-retrieval, so it stands to reason that we get all emotional and nostalgic about certain olfactory moments.
Of course knowing that didn’t stop the flood of emotions within 20 yr old me, as I sat alone in the dark cradling my artificial candle and weeping at the cleanliness of it...
Born This Way
I was born without a sense of smell.
I don’t think I was ever officially diagnosed, but my parents realized that I couldn’t smell when I would come up and watch them change my little brother’s diaper. They said I was eye-level with the stink, and I didn’t bat an eye.
No one is entirely sure why I can’t smell, but it’s probably due to the fact that I was born prematurely. So I don’t have any childhood smells. Some of you may pity me, telling me I never smelled cookies being baked, or popcorn, or bacon being cooked. I never smelled scented candles— never inhaled sweet apple pie, or spicy cinnamon, or tangy citris.
But I don’t miss these things. Maybe it isn’t possible to miss something you never had. Maybe it is, and I am merely desensitized to my longing.
Because for every time I’ve missed out on something good, I’m also getting off scott free on the bad. I never smelled the thick stench of skunk when we had them living under our house. I didn’t smell the odor of my dog’s canned food. I didn’t mind when my friends forgot to put on deodorant that morning.
So I don’t have any childhood smells.
But I’ve got enough memories, good and bad, to make up for that lack.
Q: Can you taste?
A: Yes. Since I was born without a sense of smell, I can still taste fine. Maybe if I could smell it would change my sense of taste, but as it is I can still taste. I have a favorite food (correction: I have many favorite foods).
Q: Is it COVID?
A: This is a more recent question that I've gotten from people when I tell them I can't smell. The answer? No. I was born this way, it was not the result of a virus (at least as far as I know).
1. I can "smell" gas. My dad had just gotten propane and I was leaning over it, and it made my nose feel weird. It's sort of hard to explain, but I think my nose could detect that I shouldn't be breathing in gasoline.
2. If I could smell anything, I'd either want to smell baking brownies or popcorn.
Pleasant (and Unpleasant) Memories
When I think about my childhood I smell
Fresh mown grass
My grandparents’ old house
Cold evening air
And the very dull, musty scent of cooking flour ...
I really did regret sniffing that.
Doesn’t Make Scents
Alas, I cannot smell my childhood.
I also cannot smell a savory meal, scented candles, or … anything. Perhaps it is inherited, because one of my brothers also cannot smell.
But if I could get a whiff of my childhood, I would close my eyes and recall the aromas of classroom scents and wax crayons and the other things written about in this Prose challenge. Oh, and the grass on which we played pickup baseball.
However, there is an upside to my olfactory deficit. In childhood, I did not have to smell my stockinged feet (and my brothers’) on a heat register in winter. Or the aftermath of one of Ma’s chili suppers.
The Innocence of Youth
Visions flood the images of my mind’s eye
Of a happy, charmed point in time so random
When things were simple and so carefree
And a child laughed with ease and abandon.
The allure of the small, sweet birds flying above,
The sound and salty smell of the ocean’s roll,
Bare toes mingling with rough grains of sand,
The warmth of the sun on shoulders knowing no toil.
The sweet smell and taste of homemade pies and ice cream
Or ripe watermelon juice running down your chin.
The chitter-chatter of adults filling the silence;
Laughter, ease, security, wrapped in a veil ever so thin.
Nights spent gazing at the star-studded skies
Dreaming of lands so far away and distant,
Knowing no bounds with how our lives would twist or turn
To take us to places dreamt of with little or no resistance.
Life is so simple and sweet when one is young
While the hinges of doorways have not yet spread,
Opening to things that seek to pull us elsewhere
From the places whence we were once well-placed to tread.
Magic blooms all around,
Dashing through the house,
Nicknames like Lilybug or babygirl,
No awareness of the idodic things people do,
Best friends and pillow fights,
Cold sprinklers and summer nights,
Oh what I would give,
To be one again.
At our school, we had an international food day, until they canceled it, at least. But that day was my favorite of the entire year. Each student picked a food to make or buy from a certain country. My mom would always make joulutorttu, Finnish star cookies. I remember sitting at the folding lunch tables, smelling everything in front of me. Even then, my palate was refined. Kind of. It smelled like flan and ice cream and macarons and profiteroles and baklava and my joulutorttu.
Going even further back than elementary school, I can just barely recall the hints of preschool. I loved that preschool, even though it founded my fear of Tweedledee and Tweedledum from Alice and Wonderland. Every month, we'd learn about a new color, and so my mom would make playdough, make it from scratch, dye it the color. I would carry the warm bundle into school and smell the flour and the mild saltiness and really just wish I could eat it.
Life back then was good. I didn't have to worry so much. Whenever I smell playdough, or a pastry, even down to fingerpaints, I immediately find myself thinking about my childhood, something I miss so deeply, something I'll never be able to experience again.
I can only describe the smells of my childhood as the items that were being smelled,
so here is some of the more vivid ones.
The smell of my old 'The Missing Lynx' dvd case.
The smell of my iron-burnt jeans.
The smell of my 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' book.
The smell of nail-polish-covered plushies.
The smell of my kindergarten classroom.
The smell of a concoction I made at five years old that I called 'high-fructose corn syrup'. (there was a lot of syrup though).
The smell of the inside of our VHS player.
The smell of the paper in various books.
The smell of a cavity.
The smell of this game called Hullabaloo.
The smell of Do Gro hair vitalizer.
The smell of lucid dreams. (unexplainable).
The smell of a Scooby-Doo dvd.