Thought Balloon: The Past Smells

thought balloon small asterisk

*Olfactory triggering of memory becomes more acute with age. It’s the smell of the past catching up with you.

Smells of the past catching up with me:

The smell of ozone from hot vacuum tubes in wooden console tv, before the advent of integrated circuit–ha, before the transistor!

The smell of the inside of the neighbors’ Chevy Bel-Air, and their house. The woman smoked Pall-Malls and the man White Owl cigars. They and all their possessions absolutely reeked of stale tobacco. I loved that smell as a child. I would visit them just for the odor.

The smell of my mother’s purse–a combination of  lipstick, powder compact, and ink fountain pen.

The smell of the inside of my father’s pork pie hat. Brill cream, leather, and felt.

The smell of those little soft-covered New Testaments handed out to us kids at church–It was the odor of sanctity for a five year old nascent Aztec Baptist.

The smell of saddle soap & Kiwi shoe wax on fresh shined shoes. The smell of new Keds.

The smell (and taste) of Milk-Bone dog biscuits–one for my dog, one for me.

The fusty, sharp-sweet smell of leftover cola in the old style glass returnable pop bottles I scavenged for a 5c apiece payoff.

The smell of early sixties car A/C–damp with a metal tang.

The lift-the-lid smell of rocky candy and mint dust in my Grandma’s cut glass dishes.

The smell of my Great-grandmother’s bosom–powder, lace, and skin–as she rocked me when I was very small.

One more smell I’ll mention. The family coat of arms. In a history of my family, this is recorded as “an unbent bow resting on a shield; the crest, a mailed glove with a rose in hand.” The motto is given as “Et decerpta dabunt odorem” and translated as “And plucked, they give forth an odour.” The Google translator renders it concisely as “And plucked, they smell.”

The coat of arms with its olfactory motto is all tangled up in a tale of my putative ancestor Robert serving King Louis VI aka Louis the Fat (1120-1180) with distinction in the King’s “Archer Guards.” This smells like myth to me.


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