Scent of Childhood   9 comments

March 18, 2019

If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?


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Cyrill Connelly famously stated that “The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet.”

I have to start out by saying that I am not a person who lives through my nose. My sense of smell is the weakest of my senses, so this article took some thought.

I grew up in Alaska, where homes are closed up against the winter for 6-8 months out of a year. You can’t even open the doors to air things out once a week. When I think of the smell of my childhood, I think of coming home from school and smelling the closed-up house – diesel heating fuel mixed with cigarette smoke mixed with damp-dog smell mixed with good food on the stove and coffee on the perk. Yeah, not all that appetizing and certainly not how my kids remember our house.

Our daughter, who does live through her sense of smell, says she always thinks of Pine Sol, Murphy’s Oil Soap, and lavender potpourri
mixed with the Asian spices of the stirfries that are my go-to weekday meal when she thinks of home.

But there’s another smell that came to my mind immediately when I read this topic. The smell of cold icy ground and new green growing things. There’s a bite to the Alaskan air just before the melt starts. Our trees, the great lungs of the atmosphere, take an ice nap from October through April, so there’s a natural build-up of nitrogen and CO2 in our winter air. You can feel it if you’re active outside in the spring, even when you’re a long way from human habitation. You get the slightest headache because your body knows it’s not quite right. And, when the snow starts to melt, there’s this delicious cold flavor to everything. It’s like ice cubes with just the barest hint of salicin (you know that as aspirin) from the willow trees that are the first to wake up. I love to stand at the head of a hiking trail, just far enough from my car that I can’t smell the heat from the engine and pause … take in a deep breath … launch into the Alaskan wilderness. In a couple of weeks, the snow will be gone and the plants will suck in all that extra CO2 and burst into a spring that is so fast you’d think it was part of a Nature channel documentary.

Yeah, I’m feeling nostalgic because that incredible state of being is about 2-4 weeks away. We’ve survived another winter and our house windows will be open all summer because I prefer the smell of rain, sun, growing things, and freshly mowed grass over what I grew up smelling. Not every childhood memory is worthy of nostalgia.

Now let’s check out what my fellow bloggers have to say about their childhood scent memories.

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Blog Hoppers

Mountain Musings

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Blue Honor Blog

Lydell Williams

Posted March 18, 2019 by aurorawatcherak in Blog Hop

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9 responses to “Scent of Childhood

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  1. I never thought about what happens in such a cold climate when the trees are frozen. This is so interesting.

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    • That’s one of the things I learned from going to the university here. My beat for the school newspaper included the sciences, so even though I was a non-science major, I ended up with a pretty good layman’s education.

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  2. Our winter is about 3 months long, and that’s bad enough – I don’t know how you get through 6 -8 months of it. It must be wonderful though, when summer comes and it’s light all the time.

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  3. Winter plays games here- just when you think it’s done, it comes roaring back. it even fools the trees and other plants. I don’t know how many trees we lose each year in the city due to a late winter storm.

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    • It happens here too. The axiom used to be you never planted anything but seeds before June 6, but these days we usually risk it Memorial Day weekend, but that bites people sometimes. You just can’t ever be sure.

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