Saturday, January 30, 2016


The sun was streaming down the stairs when I awoke and came in here---a delightful surprise in the stretch of these iron-cold days.  We still have the screens in the top halves of the doors, and so have not had the “wooden” doors open for some time now.   The almost-Spring scent of grass and sun-warmed hedges floats in, to mingle with the aroma of the big pot of pinto beans and ham simmering on the big old Franklin.   And a lovely aura surrounds the huge bin of throwaway TREATS---all those bits and bobs and quarter-Tups of leftover staling Christmas goodies, all dumped in a dry plastic bucket to be doled out to the birdies on the lawn, for chocolate and spice and vanilla and candied peel and candy melts all mingle in this warm room like a home-style version of walking into the sanctified scents of Laduree or Godiva.

Our house when I was growing up always smelt of BOOKS. We had lots of new BOMC ones which I read much too young, all the ones from our school library, and the loads I lugged home from the little smoky-green board-and-batten library which dispensed books and a cookie now and then. And the old crumbly ones, whose pages would shatter at the corner if you didn't turn with your gentlest touch.

My own personal trove was a gift from a between-generations cousin, who was exactly ten years younger than my Mother and ten older than I. Lynnette was the Nellie Oleson of our time, an absolute terror, a hitter and pincher and tattle-tale whose parents owned one of the two little grocery stores in a neighboring town, and who had an enticing gallery of exquisitely-dressed dolls, ordered from "OFF" for her childhood Christmases and birthdays. She also had BOOKS.

“Bought” books of her own---whole series of Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton and the Maida series and the Hardy Boys and every Tarzan in print. I would look at the dolls (not allowed to touch), but I coveted those books with a grievous avarice, and when I was in third grade, we got the CALL: Come get something she was giving away.

She was putting away childish things, and my Mammaw's joy at the idea that I would be receiving all those gloriously-attired dolls was boundless. She had even discussed shelving with my carpenter Daddy, hoping to provide them with the perfect display area.

We arrived to find three huge boxes, all packed and taped, and so heavy that they required the dolly and the help of a couple of bystanders---they had BOOKS inside, and Mammaw was NOT happy. And I was absolutely mortified that my Dad was handling a big container with "KOTEX" emblazoned on the side, RIGHT THERE IN DAYLIGHT.

But the bubble of joy that displaced all the feeling in my stomach---that anticipation and pre-enjoyment is still a milestone in my life for sheer happiness. I spent the entire Summer immersed in places and lives outside my own realm; I was right there in the front seat of that roadster (in my own smart outfit and dashing hat) as Nancy sped toward the solution to the mystery.

I passed whole days up an enormous pecan tree, trekking the steaming jungles in pursuit of elephant burial grounds and wicked traders, joining in the Jane-rescue with an echoing yodel and a swift vine-swing.

Lynnette gave the dolls to the younger sisters of her boyfriend, and I have no doubt that they were soon scattered around that tatty yard, all those satins and velvets, little feathered hats and tiny, intricate shoes, trampled and whisked away in the wind, but I can still close my eyes and be up that tree in the deep Summer heat, keeping watch for dastardly poachers and angry tribesmen.

The scent of old paper, the Johnson's wax we used on the hardwood floors (my Saturday polishings were carried out to rocking music, as I put on Daddy's old socks and danced the floors shiny), the flowers which were always present, the faint scent of my Mother's Pall Mall's, the aura of Chanel and Joy and Estee Lauder wafting from her dressing area, the delicious odors from the kitchen, where we would all be chopping and cooking and baking, the Summer tang of vinegar simmering in the latest batch of pickles, plus the Coppertone richness of a thousand days in the sun---those are still the scent-memories of my life, and my own home replicates these in its own way.

We have no idea of the complexities of our own homes' personae---the scents are just one of the points which go into their makeup; a friend used to come to our house often, and several times she said, "This smells like rich folks' houses." It was just a little house on a little street in a VERY little Southern town...but she was WAY right about the rich part. Books and music and really good food and friends to visit. Wealth beyond wishes.

And what three things does YOUR house smell of, right now?


NanaDiana said...

Oh- What a wonderful, wonderful post. So similar to my fascination and love of books at that age. We had a man, Bud, that would come to my father for advice (he was wise and cautious in the advice he gave to anyone). Anyway, being on a farm we did not have a lot of the "store bought things" that the town kids had. I think Bud felt sorry for me in a way. He would bring me huge boxes of clothes that his daughter had outgrown (most did not fit me) BUT the thing I loved most was he gave me boxes of books, too. Nancy Drew-Cherry Ames (the nurse)-Sue Barton (another nurse)---but it was Nancy Drew I loved most of all.
I would sit in a big old maple tree across the street from our house and read all day long in the summer.
Thank you for a trip down memory lane for me- xo Diana

Susie said...

I loved this post. Smells can take us back in time . I laughed about the "rich folks" Smell. LOL Books are the best way to use our imaginations. I always see things in my mind when I read. Blessings to you, xoxo,Susie

Kathy said...

Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames were my go-to books growing up. I also loved all of Louisa May Alcott's books and read them over and over even the ones that were lesser known like A Rose in Bloom and Eight Cousins. Books have always been my friends and it is no wonder that I got a degree in Library Science and worked in a library for 19 years.

Smells bring back memories, that's for sure. I'll get a whiff of cigarettes that remind me of my Dad. Or a lavender perfume that my grandmother used to wear. Even though they have been in heaven for many years, they are beside me again when I smell these things.

Thanks for this great post!

donna baker said...

Two stinky weenies next to me on the couch that need a bath and their teeth brushed.

bj said...

Darling girl...I beg, once again, to share your delightful writing with some of my friends on the blog. You write just like I'm sure you talk...and it is so so refreshing. I just want to borrow a few lines and your post link, if it's ok....:)

Chronica Domus said...

Lovely, just lovely! Your definition of "rich" is indeed spot on.

You were so very fortunate to have been given all those glorious books that provided you with oodles of memories. No doll was worth that!

My home currently smells, or did, of narcissi. I say "did" because my husband could not live with the overwhelming scent any longer and proceeded to move them outside. I guess his olfactory sense registers a little differently to mine.

Jeanne said...

Love this Rachel and it sure did make me smile. My house smells like homemade bread tonight. We are visiting our son and daughter-in-law tomorrow and I am taking them a loaf of bread. They live in TN about 2 1/2 hours away. The smells of baking at Christmas is the best time in our home. One of my favorite smells is when the lawn is mowed and it smells like the years I lived on our farm. Kind of like new cut hay. And I agree that the smell of the Spring air is wonderful too.

The story of how you love books is very near to my heart. Both Bill's dad and my Mother loved books and reading more than anyone I knew until now. You remind me of my mom with your love of reading so much. When I think of my mom she is sitting in her chair reading a book.

Your story of the gift of books made me smile so much. All five of our children were given countless books from Bill's dad when he passed away. Whole collections of classics and they were all vintage. Hardy boys, Louisa Mae Alcott, etc. etc. I too love to read and so does Bill. When you describe your memories of reading the many books you were given in your youth I can truly understand your delight. So much more interesting than dolls. Thank you for yet another wonderful story.

Love, Jeanne

Kim S. said...

Finally trying to find a minute to catch up, you see! LOTS going on - I'll write soon and get you caught up, but please know that I think of you every day and love you MUCHLY!!!

Our library is having a book sale today and tomorrow and I’m anticipating DAYS of feeling like you did when Lynnette gave you those books. I’ll take books over dolls any day!!

My house doesn’t smell of anything just now, but later today it will smell like white trash tamale pie! Mmmmmmm!