I was browsing the aisles of a pharmacy one day when a familiar scent wafted nearby. It was a scent I knew well, a scent I remembered from my childhood. I turned around to find that I was standing in front of a display of body sprays and splashes. Some of them has testers for people to try them out. As I knew it would be, one of the testers was for a body splash I had not seen in stores for years, called “Jean Nate’.” Some of you who are in the Baby Boomer generation may remember it. The reason it had caused me to stop and turn around is because it reminded me of my mother. Jean Nate’ was her favorite scent. She would splash it on right before she went out the door to the store or wherever her day was taking her. I would always know if my mother had been out during the day while I was at school because when I walked through the door at 3 p.m. I could smell the cloud of Jean Nate’ that flowed around her.
Our senses have stories to tell us. Besides the body splash, smells that remind me of my mother include a fresh pot of spaghetti sauce or chicken soup bubbling on the stove. My other senses tell me stories as well. My sense of hearing brings her face to mind every time I hear Mario Lanza or Perry Como recordings at Christmas. Every time I touch a skein of yarn or pick up a crochet hook I feel my mother beside me knitting or crocheting away. Every time I bite into a fresh, hot slice of Italian bread dripping with butter (vegan butter now, of course), or enjoy her favorite summer pasta dish with zucchini and tomatoes, I see her in the kitchen of our home working away. When I see pink or yellow roses, or a lilac tree in bloom, I see her out in our yard leaning towards the blossoms and taking in their aroma. Our senses tell us stories.
The memories of my father come to me whenever I pass an automobile service station and get a whiff of oil and gasoline … my dad owned a garage in Brooklyn for over 40 years. Anyone remember Old Spice shaving cream and lotions? That was his favorite. When I sip a cold beer on a hot summer day, I remember my dad sitting at the dinner table (in the winter it was wine). Although I no longer eat meat, the smell of chicken on the barbecue brings up memories of him tending the grill in the summertime. Once in the grocery store I heard an older man laugh, a deep belly laugh that sounded like someone had just told him a dirty joke. My heart did a flip because it sounded just like him.
Our senses tell us stories. They take us back to our childhoods, our years growing up, the special and even the not-so-special times that make up the story of us. To this day I cannot hear a Beatle song without remembering seeing them in concert at Shea Stadium in New York back in 1966. One of the things I have found most profound as I continue on my own journey to create an authentic life is how the stories my senses tell me find their way into the choices I make today. Walking past a Chinese restaurant I’ll pick up the scent and remember going to the movies with my Mom on a Saturday followed by lunch at the Chinese restaurant next door … and I find myself picking up some veggie fried rice and roasted veggies! I’ll smell the lilac bush across from my writing window and feel the need to purchase some lilac oils to spray in my home. I see a skein of navy blue yarn in the craft store and wonder how hard it would be to crochet a sweater for my great-grandson (didn’t I have a navy blue sweater that my mother knitted when I was 4 or 5?).
What stories do your senses tell you? How have they played a part in the person you are now? As you may have guessed, our assignment for this week on the Home Page is going to ask you to answer those questions. Have lots of fun with this one, and remember: keep writing!
Peace and blessings.