Another Day in the Country
The smell of home
© Another Day in the Country
The way a house smells has not been something I’ve thought about for a long while.
Last week I went out to breakfast with my friend DeAnne. We had a lot of catching up to do because we hadn’t seen each other in a while.
We talked about her children, how her husband was doing, what the grandkids were doing and who was traveling where.
I told her about life in Ramona, my hen Goldie being killed by the neighbor’s dog, how my hens have stopped laying, and I’m getting just one egg a day.
My friend is interested in my chickens because she buys eggs from me.
“No eggs for a while,” I said.
When we’d eaten our breakfast and told each other the news, she said, “Well, I’d best be getting back home.”
She paused and grinned.
“Do you know I always look forward to getting home and just smelling my house. It’s so comforting.”
“Really?” I said. “What does your house smell like?”
“I think it’s the wood stove,” she said.
Her face lit up with that smile of hers, when her eyes are all twinkly.
“It just smells so cozy.”
At the grocery store, I still was thinking about smells. Some grocery stores smell of over-ripe fruit. I was in the breakfast food aisle, and the only smell I could detect was cardboard.
The Korean Market that Richard takes us to after picking me up from an airport in Oakland smells of raw meat and garlic.
The dollar store smells of formaldehyde. I’ve heard it’s put into cheaper fabric to give it more body.
Suddenly, smells were everywhere in my consciousness:
the smell at gas pumps — a smell that I intensely dislike along with rising prices; the smell of used grease in a fast-food place.
When I got home, I stopped at the door and sniffed.
“Does my house have a smell?” I wondered.
Of course, I want it to smell warm and cozy — even though I don’t have a fireplace or a wood stove.
I remember, back in the day, when we used to cut our own Christmas trees or get a fresh tree at the corner stall that suddenly appeared selling trees from Oregon in California.
We’d bring our carefully chosen tree inside, set it up in the stand, and the smell of the tree permeated the whole house.
It was wonderful!
As the day wore on, you’d get used to the fragrance in the air, but all you had to do was go outside and come in again and that pine scent would lift your spirits.
“It’s Christmas,” it said.
“We’ve got our tree up,” my California kids called to tell me. “It’s fake, you know, so I got some scented pine strips to hang around the house.”
I chuckled. It’s not the same.
The smell of my house changes with the menu, I think. Some of those smells are mouth watering and others I detest — broccoli, for instance. We had it last night for supper, and now I’m sniffing to see whether I still can detect it.
A little cottage across the street that we call the Ramona House has a smell to it. No matter how much we air the house out or what scented candles we burn, there’s a residual smell — a damp earth smell. I call it the closed-house smell.
My Grandma Schubert’s house had a smell that was so familiar I thought unique to her.
The house smelled of stale coffee, tobacco, and anise. You’d smell it the moment you opened the door. You’d smell it the moment you opened a tin of cookies. She always flavored them with anise instead of vanilla.
I’m very particular about any fragrance that I have around me.
“It can’t smell like a candle shop,” I say to my sister.
Nor do I want anything smelling of pumpkin pie — even though I love that fragrance when a real pie comes out of my oven.
Then I smelled my house — or, at least, what I want my house to smell like at all times. You can detect it strongest at the edge of the living room when you head into the hall.
The smell has a name: “Honey Tobacco.” My daughter sent me this scented candle ages ago because I smelled one at a spa where she worked. I loved that smell.
“That fragrance is so delicious,” I said, “It just makes you smile.”
She got one for me. Then I got more. That smell fills the whole house when the candle is lighted. It seeps into the corners, lingering. I never want to be without it because it smells of home.
Usually, this time of year, my house smells of cookies baking, but not this year for dietary reasons.
“Maybe we should make just one batch of tea cookies,” my sister relents, “for old time’s sake.”
Imagine the fragrance on another day in the country.