The Scent of Memories

I’d know that smell anywhere. It wafted across the breeze when I stepped outside to walk to the mailbox this afternoon. A flood of memories came back to me. Suddenly, I was riding in my parents’ old Corvair down a country road in early summer. The fragrance of honeysuckle was as thick in the air as the humidity.

In those days, we still rode in cars without seatbelts, had the windows down for air conditioning (unless you were wealthy enough to own a car that had air conditioning), and stuck your arm out the window to pick wildflowers along country lanes (no, dinosaurs did not roam the earth). How well I remember grabbing the honeysuckle vine, pulling the end off of the flowers, and tasting the sweet drops of nectar. Oh, what a flood of memories.

In addition to the honeysuckle vines that have sprung up in my yard (that my husband always tries to kill – farmers don’t like them), I have some peonies, too. The peonies always remind me of bath salts that my mama used when I was young. I loved the smell of my skin after a sweet bath when I was a little girl. I remember curling up in mama’s arms and she would tell me how good I smelled.  Later she would rock my sister to sleep as she sang “How Great Thou Art.” My mama smelled so pretty and sang so beautifully.

In the backyard stands a great Southern magnolia tree. I really don’t think there’s a home in the south that is more than 10 years old that doesn’t have a magnolia tree in the yard. Each summer I wait patiently for this one to bloom just so I can take in the fragrance. Between the size of the flower and the sweet odor, this is surely the most magnificent of trees. When I was a poor college student, I often used a pouch of magnolia potpourri to freshen my car, or at least take away the smell of fast food bags and sweaty clothes. There are too many memories there to count.

I also have some rose bushes scattered around the yard.  They carry me to a time at my paternal grandmother’s house when I was a young girl. She had a lovely rose bush along the rock wall around her driveway. It was larger than any I’ve seen since and smelled heavenly. I rarely got to visit her during the summer, only at the holidays, so smelling the roses was a treat. I didn’t realize that then, but I’m so thankful for mine now. I have other roses in my yard, but they are various hybrids that have beautiful flowers, fewer thorns, and a greatly reduced fragrance. There is just nothing like the smell of an old-fashioned rose.

Some health matters have confined me to my home for a few days. It was nice to get outdoors today to listen to the mockingbirds, a chickadee, a distant dog barking; to watch my dogs run around the hay field; to feel the pleasant breeze blowing across my arms; and to walk around the yard to smell the flowers.  What memories they bring!


~Temerity Dowell


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