It's one of those things that you have to leave to receive. That welcoming gift of walking back inside your front door when you recognize the scent that means you're home. It's that glimpse into what others must associate with your house but that is invisible to you unless you've been gone a while.
Bubby Rene used to send us birthday packages filled with cotton pjs and socks (apparently in her mind, scottsdale was middle-of-nowhere desert making these items scarce) Upon opening them, our immediate reaction was to put them up to our noses - ah, yup, bubby rene's house...not a good or bad smell, just that overwhelming reminder of the house where two people lived who loved us more than...well, pretty much anything. (If you're one of two grandchildren to Holocaust survivors or perhaps really any grandparents, you pretty much walk on water...I have yet to be able to find anyone else who thinks this of me, but still looking...) That mixture of brisket and cologne and hairspray - and absolutely impossible to replicate or pin down. How do you describe a smell? It smells like...bubby rene.
I know the smell of my parents house: it has hues of freshness and tile with a tinge of warmth that draws me in. So I wonder, what is my house smell? It is lived in long enough to have that smell of belonging? Do my friends walk in and know where they are even if their eyes are shut? Is it inviting or sterile? And what do you do if you have a bad house smell? is there such a thing - like deodorant for houses? I know - candles and roomspray, but those aren't the house smell - they simply coat over it.
Gardenias and perfumes and freshly baked cookies; pine trees after the rain and warm laundry...all favorite aromas of mine...but its the ones i crave the most that are irreplaceable. The sweater I treasured of Zaidy Charlie's has long since lost the sweet musk of his smile and soft hands. The pink blanket Bubby Ida knit me simply smells like Bounce. and my cotton pjs, long since outgrown, are missing the smell of the cosy house in Toronto that used to be crammed with brown cooking, pictures, and adoration. To be fair, the actual house is missing too, as the wealthy neighbors bought it and turned it into a garage. (Makes for a special nostalgic trip through my father's childhood streets..."Ok kids, here's the garage where we all lived...")
And then I have to smile as I anticipate my mom's sleep-over at my apartment tomorrow with the knowledge that when she walks thru my front door, she carries with her arizona and comfort and love and mim embedded in her jeans. Perhaps, she'll leave a little bit of mom-ness in the pillowcases - and I'm guessing that I'll wait a while to throw them in the wash, because you just can't find that smell in a bottle.