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Kansas City MO 64131

SMELLS

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SMELLS

Cindy Maddera

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Have you ever noticed the way things smell at an estate sale or a garage sale? How the smells of the previous owner works its way into the fabric of a chair or even into their nick-knacks? I remember that Pepaw's house smelled like cigarettes, coffee and Old Spice. I kept one of his ugly ash trays for kitsch and also because it was something quintessential Pepaw. I know I watched Katrina scrub that ash tray in scalding hot water, but if I hold it up to my nose, I can still smell Pepaw. Nellie, my dad's mom, smelled of Shalimar and something powdery, like those after bath powders you can buy from Avon. Years later after her death, Mom and I opened a box in the garage and we knew instantly that it was a box of Nellie's things. I remember saying "it smells like Grandmother". Mom agreed with me and then she wondered out loud what her smell would be. I couldn't answer her, maybe because she was too familiar. I saw her every day. If I had to pinpoint her smell now it would be more of a mix of memories than actual scents. Cinnamon, nutmeg, candle wax, clay. The first three are scents that always seemed to permeate through the house this time of year. Oh...that just reminded me of pecan tassies. I can smell them now, cooling on the counter, which is weird because I don't remember them smelling like cinnamon. I think of the candle wax because there always seemed to be a pot of it simmering on the stove. Mom did a lot of crafting and craft fairs between jobs. We dipped a lot of pine cones. I liked to press the palm of my hand into the hot wax and then feeling the way the wax pulled and tightened the skin. When I peeled it off, I'd have a perfect mirror image of my palm. The clay came later, after she retired and she took up pottery. It's the first thing you smell when you open the door to the garage. I think it's my favorite smell. Wet, earthy and cool. It smells like it feels. I don't know dad's smell. I would guess a mix of some generic after shave, Zest or Dial, roasted peanuts.

I held onto some of Chris's sweaters because they're big and comfy. The first time I put one on, I smelled it looking for that particular Chris smell. All I smelled was me. The last day Chris was alive, the nurse gave him a bath. I don't know the soap they used, but I had some shampoo that smelled just like it. I'd be washing my hair and images from that last day would float into my brain. I had to throw that shampoo away. Michael smells like AXE hair gel and Zest. When we first started seeing each other, he walked into my house and said "how do you make your house smell so good?!?". I never noticed that my house smelled nice. He says it's my job to make our home smell this way all the time.

It's odd how smells trigger memories. Maybe that's why I always find those estate and garage sales so sad. It's like they're selling away their memories. But then I remember that some smells don't always carry good memories, and I understand. I want to fill my home with good smells and permeate everything with those good memories.