Thursday, October 11, 2012

books and brushes, an olfactory tale

*Note, I'm totally impressed with myself for coming up with this title.  It took me awhile, believe it or not.

Towards the end of August, Eric got a package in the mail.



It was a bunch of comic magazines (not to be confused with comic books)--publications meant to advertise upcoming editions, give behind-the-scenes details, etc.  These had been printed in the 1980s and Eric had found them for cheap on ebay.

I happened to be at home when Eric first opened the package, and as he did so, he held the pages of the books up to his face, inhaled deeply, sighed, and passed the bunch off to me, asking me to do the same.  Looking at him oddly, I did so.  As I did, Eric sighed in contentment,

"That is the smell of my childhood."

He went on, explaining how he would ride his bike for blocks and even miles to find stores that had comic books with just this scent, and how at times his mother would take him to entire stores in different cities, all dedicated to comic books (the stores, not the cities), and completely saturated with the comforting smell of pulpy newsprint.  As he did so, I started scanning my memory for the smells of my own childhood, and found that I came up empty.  No particular smell came to mind, much to my surprise, and a little to my dismay.

Fortunately, a few weeks later, I was in Cedar City, land of my childhood.  One morning, I left a pajama-clad Heather with my parents, and headed out the door, my shuffle clipped to my shirt collar, running shoes on my feet.  I headed east and then south, following an old frontage road that had figured prominently in my high school cross-country workout days.  

About twenty minutes into my workout, I smelled it.

Sagebrush.  Miles and miles of sagebrush.  I was transported back to high school training runs, rides in the backs of pick-ups, bicycle rides, and even learning-how-to-drive-a-stick-drives with the windows rolled down.  Then, I was transported back even further back, all the way to those first few years in Cedar City, roaming around the (then plentiful) vacant lots in Cedar Knolls, being one of the "Star Wars Bears"  (our tomboy club leaders' name for our group, not mine), gathering juniper berries and chanting cool slogans about how awesome we all were.  

I'd love to write something pensive and pithy and meaningful and profound here, tying newsprint and sagebrush and childhood and adulthood all together into something spectacularly brilliant, but I'm afraid I'm coming up empty, and to be honest, I'm okay with that.  Sometimes there isn't anything profound to say, sometimes it's enough to just share a little memory or two about this or that.  This is one of those times, I think.

What about you?  Feeling chatty?  Wanna share a smell that personifies your childhood? 

sagebrush image courtesy of, which would indicate that this land is for sale, if you're interested.


Heather Albee-Scott said...

I love when smells take me back! I used to visit NYC when I was about 15, take the train from Pennsylvania to visit my sister who lived in the city and there are times when I catch a whiff of something, usually a dumpster, and it takes me there (this is not a bad thing, it really is good, it just happens to be dumpsters that smell the way I remember NYC to smell). I also get this now in Michigan, the smell of fall taking me back to growing up in Wisconsin. That sense of smell is so powerful in evoking memories. Great post Charlotte! I'll have to tell Steve about the comic books - he and Eric were obviously separated at some point and really do belong to the same family, I'm certain.

Kaylee C said...

Ah, the frontage road. Is it funny that I recognized those trees and sagebrush before you talked about them? :)

Charlotte said...

If my funny you mean AWESOME!!!

Jamie Younker said...

Isn't it funny how smells really do bring back memories SO strong? Love it! The smell of bread baking always takes me back to my childhood. My mom was a SERIOUS bread baker, something I have yet to learn to master.

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