This week I was reading two novels that mentioned sweet scent memories. They were extra special because I have the same memory, my father’s Old Spice after shave. Yet, as sweet as this memory is, there is a sweeter one. The aroma of cherry pipe tobacco smoke.
First Seeds of a Memory
At just two weeks old, I didn’t retain full memories, but these early weeks were when my bond with my father formed. It was the time between Christmas and New Year’s, when I imagine Dad had received the special cherry pipe tobacco as a Christmas gift, perhaps from my mother.
Mom was dealing with two baby girls in diapers and asked for help from her husband, my father. Although he put in long days as a farmer, an orange grove caretaker, he was happy to help with me. I was an easy baby; no colic, no difficulty taking a bottle.
I have a visual memory of a photo of my tiny self, propped on my father’s thighs as he holds my bottle in one hand and cradles his pipe in the other, smoke tendrils winding heavenward. He’s dressed in a white Hane’s t-shirt and still has on his work pants as he props himself against the wall behind the master bed.
How Specific is Scent Memory?
Sweet scent memories are very specific for me. I don’t care for all pipe smoke, only cherry pipe tobacco will do. How specific are your scent memories? I’ll bet they are very specific too. Is it cinnamon raisin bread baking, whole wheat or white bread in the oven?
Do you take action to expose yourself to your sweet scent memory? I sure did. Near the end of my Dad’s life he still occasionally smoked a pipe. He preferred Captain Jack in the gold pouch. And I always bought his preference, but I’d pick up a bag of cherry tobacco, hold it close to my face and take a big breath in. I think it brought me back to my two-week old self, securely cradled in my Dad’s lap, my tummy full of nourishment.
Books That Take You Down Memory Lane
The two books that stirred my memories this week were Tiger Drive by Teri Case and Stillwater by Mary Jo Hazard. Tiger Drive depicted a very different life than my own, but I identified with seventeen-year-old Carrie in many ways. Teri built her characters fully, giving me plenty of reason to care about the Sloan family. I highly recommend it.
Stillwater took place in a small town in upstate New York, during the approximate time of my childhood. The twelve-year-old characters in Stillwater spent a lot of time in activities my sister, cousins, and I enjoyed; playing in clubhouses or trees, riding our bicycles, and listening in on grown-up conversations. Both these books took me on a trip down my own memory lane. And isn’t that what books should do? They allow your own sweet scent memories to waft in and around the words on the page.
Onto the next book,