Sunday, January 20, 2013
Do you smell that?
You know how aromas can transport you back to childhood? I'm not talking cookies from the oven or bacon sizzling in a pan. I'm talking non-food related smells that evoke early memories.
I loved the smell of my grandma's damp basement. It was not musty-smelling. It was more like fresh laundry. I can envision her cranking the handle of her wringer washing machine as she fed soapy clothes through the rollers and deposited them into a long-legged wash tub filled with clean rinse water. The clothing was sent back through the rollers again, placed in a woven wooden basket and hung on a clothes line with wooden clothespins. She held clothespins in her fist and mouth. The cotton clothesline became so heavy, she used a seven foot wooden prop to raise the line so the clothes didn't drag the ground. My! We've come a long way since washboards, wringer washers and clothes props.
At five years old, I tagged along with my mom to the S.S. Kresgee or Woolworth's dime stores to purchase oil cloth. A rack held dozens of horizontal rolls of colorful, patterned material (cotton, canvas, duck or linen) treated with a coating of linseed oil to make it waterproof. Oilcloth was a practical way to cover kitchen tables. Unlike the plastic-feeling, flannel-backed tablecloths of today, which are made of fabric and coated with poly-vinyl chloride, oil cloth was biodegradable.
I can still remember that distinct linseed oil aroma. Oh the excitement I felt in helping to decide on a new pattern or design, and then watching as the sales lady removed the forty-eight inch wide roll of material from the rack, laid it on the counter and used her large scissor to cut off a yard or two. That smell lingered in our kitchen, the vibrant colors as exciting as a new box of crayons.
When you write a story, whether for publication or your own personal memoir, be sure to include aromas that transport your reader to a place and time. They don't have to be delightful smells, either. While some people like the smell of gasoline, I can't stand it. I used to ride a public bus to school, and the exhaust fumes were headache inducing.
Care to share an aroma memory?