Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. The sun is peeking over the horizon, brightening the guestroom just enough for me to take in the familiar furniture at my grandparents’ house Stark Street in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. In this memory, I don’t know how old I am, because I’m lots of ages… this jarring wake-up call happened countless times, probably every time we were there for a visit. With each thud that shook the house, I came more to life in this particular day.
I stumble out of the guestroom into the kitchen across the hall where my grandfather is pounding a chicken with a knife dulled from years of use as he preps The Soup that will be our noon meal. The worn and stained soup pot sits on the stove, hot with oil and onion, ready to receive copious paprika to make a sort of roux, its fragrance wafting throughout the house, all spicy and disquieting to the nose. Soon chicken and potatoes will be added to the mix. Although its not a typical morning aroma, perhaps not one you’d choose outright, my Grandpa’s Soup is an exception for me. It boils on the stove for hours, teasing us until it’s time to gather around the yellow-speckled Formica table and ladle the spicy broth over doughy Kluski noodles and dumplings.
I’ve lived this memory a dozen times, but they merge as one now. I don’t remember who sat in which seat or what I was wearing. But I remember the aroma. And now, when I make The Soup, it’s the scent of Grandpa’s Soup that fills me with warmth and a sense of family.
How do certain scents do that? Food, perfume, odors—all these attach to our memories in ways that don’t make sense to me, but I know of them firsthand. Our sense of smell pulls us into moments, both in the moment and from then on, whenever the memory surfaces again.
When our senses are working properly, they make us more alive, more connected to whatever is happening and whoever is in the moment with us. But when our senses are overloaded or we’re just going through the motions of life with no time to, say, stop and smell the roses, we are only living half lives. We are living like zombies.
It’s rare to hear someone say they want to try to pay more attention to scents and odors, isn’t it? We say we should pay more attention to what people say or the people they see, but to purpose to smell better? No. I’ve not heard that. But the sense of smell is important enough that God gave it to us. What are we missing if we are not stimulating and engaging our sense of smell as we go about our days? And if we’re in a season of zombie-like faith, it’s doubtful we’re very concerned about our ability to discern what our nose is picking up.
But this I know: I wouldn’t trade the scent memories I have of my Grandpa’s soup for anything. Taking in the aroma all those times opens a floodgate of emotion that I doubt I would have without the added component that my sense of smell gives me. If I could have more memories like these, how much more alive would I be inside?
Do you have strong memories associated with certain aromas or scents? I’d love to hear all about it.