It’s strange how smells can take you back in time and conjure up old memories. Sweet smells like perfume and flowers, musty smells of plowed dirt or mildew, or spicy smells of roasting chile or cumin, all have the power to transport you to the past. In fact, researchers have shown that the power of olfactory stimulus is more powerful than visual or audio cues in stimulating memory.
Some of my strongest olfactory memories are from my Grandma’s house. Every time I walked into her house, I could smell the cinnamon she would boil on the stove. As I walked down the hall to her room, the scent of her perfume and lotions began to fill the air. Her room was filled with her santos and her rosary was always by her side. As you entered there was a sweet subtle smell similar to rose petals.
Grandma always loved Avon, she would order each of us kids bubble bath when we were little. As we got older, we regularly received colognes as gifts. I still have boxes of unused Black Suede and Mesmerize in the closet. I don’t wear cologne, but for some reason, I can’t see getting rid of them. They remind me of her and how much she loved all of her grandchildren.
As I sit here drinking coffee writing this blog with the snow falling outside I am reminded of the holidays. Every Thanksgiving, Grandma would make the worlds best cornbread dressing. I loved helping her in the kitchen and she taught me quite a bit about cooking. I still make her dressing every year, and the spicy sweet smell takes me back to Grandma’s kitchen. She would start with Owen’s sausage (not that Jimmy Dean junk) and add celery and onions. The celery and onions had to be chopped so fine that you could hardly see the pieces, I never could chop them quite fine enough to suit her. Then she would add cumin and poultry seasoning their spicy warm aroma filled the kitchen. After everything cooked down well enough, she would add the cornbread and a bag of Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned stuffing (you can’t use Stove Top) but make sure it’s the blue bag not the red. Finally, she would add the Swanson’s broth mixing it all together into a wonderful, spicy, delicious concoction that made every holiday special. Grandma was always very particular about what went into her cooking, everything had to be a specific brand or it wouldn’t be right.
I dearly miss that woman, she taught me so much especially about faith. She prayed her rosary faithfully every morning without fail and even when the arthritis kept her home-bound, she would never miss mass on the television. Even though she has been gone a little over two years and I will never be able to visit her home again, I can still smell her perfume and lotion. Often times at Mass during the prayer of the faithful or the Lord’s prayer, I’ll catch a whiff of her perfume and feel her presence. I try to identify where the scent has come from, but it goes as quickly as it appeared. I guess this is just Grandma checking in on us and saying hello.