"I was right back at their house! I could smell Pa' Pa's pipe just as plain as day!" We decided she must've smelled someone driving by and smoking their pipe while she was looking at the outside flower display there at the Home Depot. ( It had to be someone in the privacy of their car, after all, because I think that smoking in public is now grounds for execution by firing squad.) Thus began a lengthy conversation about the fact that the sense of smell is the one sense most closely associated with memory. We discussed some of our favorite smells that reminded us of favorite places and times. My mother's kitchen the day before Thanksgiving. Fresh cut grass at a ballpark, prior to the great American pastime taking place between the white lines. Or fresh cut cilantro and limes, the beginning of many great summer meals in our house (my wife gets positively giddy over the smell of fresh cilantro.) Coffee and cigarettes, the first thing to hit my nose waking up to summer days spent at my Aunt Nell and Uncle Ralph's farm. Books and their unmistakable mustiness, a smell which will always take me back to Aunt Jean's house. (Never married, always living alone, books were her life.) Even hardcore mobsters can be soothed by the smell of a fireplace on a crisp autumn evening. Remember Tony Soprano telling Christopher (taking pause right after gunning down 2 guys from a biker gang and stealing their expensive wine) "Smell 'dat? It's like the first chilly night of fall when everybody lights their fireplaces." "Yeah, Halloween" responds Christopher, putting a recently fired revolver back in his pocket and looking wistfully towards the sky.
So we finished our errands and our conversation and, upon returning home, the Registered Nurse that lives in my house (and pulls double duty as my sweet bride) ordered me back into my recliner and told me to rest. We've been fighting a cold and sinus thing that's been hanging on seemingly for a month. I was given a reprieve to get out of the house and accompany her on errands but she said I'd done enough. Now, let me give some background on what transpired next....
Back a hundred years ago when my sisters were all living at home and we all went to church together (whether we wanted to or not!) our mother got out of bed early enough to put a pot roast in the oven every Sunday morning. I think she partially cooked it, kept it wrapped and in the oven and let it stay warm while we were at church. When we got home she warmed up the the sides (which often included peas she'd snapped and cooked the day before) and managed to have Sunday dinner on the table by the time we'd all gotten out of our church clothes (everyone except her, of course...I can still see her sweating and darting around a kitchen in whatever she'd worn to church.) Like most little boys, getting me presentable for church was putting lipstick on a pig. Cowlicks had to be tamed, smudges of whatever I'd been into in the backyard the day before still lived on my face and a little clip on tie rarely sat the way it was supposed to. While she was doing all that fussin' and straightening and combing I could smell the onions, potatoes and meat on her hands from her early morning labor in the kitchen. It sounds odd, I'm sure, but it was a comforting smell and one I'll remember 'til the day I die.
Now, back to our Saturday afternoon in the recliner. The afternoon turned to night and for the first night since I'd gotten sick I was actually able to fall asleep, even if it was still sitting up in the recliner (because lying down started the coughing and congestion all over again.) In the midst of my slumber, I felt someone behind my chair scratching my head and rubbing my neck and shoulders and assumed my bride was giving me one last moment of pampering before she went off to bed (something she does quite well when I'm sickly....ok, she does it all the time, I'm spoiled rotten.) But the hands that were scratching and rubbing and sending me deeper into sleep suddenly came over the top of my head and rested on my forehead, checking for a fever. And there they were - the onions, the potatoes, the meat- those hands I remembered well, wearing all the wonderful smells of Sunday dinner. It was so real that I reached up and behind me and tried to grab those hands, thinking the woman I miss so much was there checking on me. There wasn't anyone there of course. The dog had woken up and was standing in the middle of the floor with a very puzzled look on her face so I reckon I must've been talking during what had to have been a dream. But it sure didn't feel ........or smell.......like a dream.