The things that will never make it in the baby books and other musings from a stay at home mom

Sunday, June 19, 2005


I can still remember the way my friend Laura's house smelled when we were children. It wasn't a bad odor in any way, just a distinctive one which surrounded me as soon as I stepped in the door. It's been at least 20 years since I've been in that house, but I still recall how it smelled every bit as clearly as I recall its layout and decor.

Every house has a smell to it, though most people don't really notice the scent of their own homes. The beauty products you use, the cleaning supplies you employ, the cooking odors you create all combine to create a scent that isn't a scent. It smells, quite simply, like you. Take those familiar smells away, however, and you take away an integral part of what makes your house your home.

We returned home from vacation to a house that smelled completely unfamiliar. Our cat had behaved herself and we found no little gifts hidden in unexpected places, but after an insanely hot week during which the house had been shut up tight, the odor of feline occupancy was unmistakable. On top of this unpleasant scent were layered other unfamiliar odors; our cleaning woman/cat sitter had taken advantage of our absence to use some strong cleaning products and their smells remained in the air as well. I had the disorienting feeling of finding familiar belongings in familiar places in a house that felt like it belonged to strangers. It just didn't seem like ours if it didn't smell like us.

We've had the windows flung wide open all weekend and things are slowly getting back to normal around here. But it's been a terribly disorienting homecoming for me as I've waited it out. I've always loved the way smell can evoke memories -- sawdust takes me instantly back to summer camp, a certain fabric softener takes me instantly back to a junior high crush and stale beer takes me instantly back to my favorite college bar. But I never realized how quickly smell can erase memories as well, and I hated being in this house without having a odiferous connection to it.

I said on Friday that it was good to be home, and it was good to be back in this house. But today, when I can finally say that home smells like home, it feels so very much better. I wish I could bottle the way that my house doesn't smell today. I can only imagine the memories that uncorking that bottle would evoke for me some day in the future.


At 6:55 PM, Blogger Kristy said...

I have a piece of furniture -- a small desk -- that comes from my grandmother's house. Underneath is a cabinet. Inside the cabinet is a musty odor. I hope it never goes away. It reminds me of my grandmother and every moment I spent at her house.


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