Have you ever noticed upon entering someone’s home that it had a very distinct aroma? That scent, if you noticed it somewhere other than in that particular home, would remind you of that person or family. And I’m not talking about the smell of trash that needs to be taken out or a litter box in need of a good cleaning. I’m talking about that scent that so much embodies a home that its occupants fail to recognize it, but to a visitor is so distinct that it instantly becomes associated with those who live there.
I used to notice this a lot more when I was a kid. My grandparents’ home had its own aroma; a mixture of home made baked goods and days gone by. All of my friends’ and relatives’ homes had their own signature smell. Maybe it was a certain brand of soap; always present at every sink in the home. Maybe it was the smell of my uncle’s farm, mingling with the aromas inside the house. It wasn’t usually anything I could name specifically, but it was something I always associated with that family and it brought a sense of familiarity.
I used to walk into my own house and feel as if I was being greeted by the familiar aroma that made up our home. That aroma used to fill me with a sense of comfort, promise and the future. My awareness of that scent usually faded away as I went about my business, but it was always there when I first came through the door.
Somewhere along the line, that awareness left me. I hadn’t realized it, but it was just gone. I think that my awareness hinged too much on expectations for the future and the misguided notion of having all the time in the world. I wonder if somehow the loss was connected to a tendency I developed to focus (often with a bit of sadness) on the days that have passed us by.
On Thursday morning when I returned from my attempt at a run, (I say “attempt” because it was forcefully windy and I ended up walking…) I was met with an overwhelming sense of the scent that I have been too busy or preoccupied to notice for a while. It was early and the rest of the family was still sleeping. From the entryway, I gazed up through the wood railing into the living room. I simply stood still and realized something that hasn’t happened in a long time was happening again. As I stood there in my reverie, I saw a series of events from the past years of our lives… The boys playing matchbox cars on the living room floor; little hands making creations from Legos; excited squeals as cars flew around race-tracks; Kacey playing with her baby dolls and all of their accessories, toddler giggles and baby voices. I remembered lying on the floor reading books to the kids or watching a favorite Disney flick (for the hundredth time.) I had visions of days when all of us eating together at the table was the norm and there was a hot meal every night.
I was suddenly impacted with the realization that I may have quit making the association with “our” scent because I associated it with loss… the loss of all the years that passed by too quickly. And then came an epiphany of sorts – an understanding that those years are not lost. They live forever in my heart and I will carry them with me forever.
…And all of this materialized because I smelled something. My brain is a strange place sometimes.