The Nose Knows!

Smell. Odor. Scent. Olfactory sensation. Finely differentiated nuances separate these words. All of which have the same basic meaning. In its noun form it’s a sensation perceived by the nose.

In the hospital where I work there are many smells. Food from the kitchen. Cleaning solutions. Women’s perfume. And a couple of things best left to the imagination that emit a truly foul odor. Enough to make you gag.  I have to say I admire the nurses and techs who deal with that daily. Today I detected a scent that took me way, way back to my childhood. A good smell.  A good memory.

My father’s father is the only grandparent I really remember. My mother’s mother was alive when I was very young but my memories of her are quite limited. Every summer we would make the long car ride to visit my grandfather at his home.  The home where my father was born. To me Grandpa, Jadju in phonetic Polish, was always an old man. He was sixty two years old when I was born. I remember him as a kind old man. Apparently I missed a few things, but I was a child so give me a break. He smoked and drank. Maybe did some other things too. What I remember however is the smell of his house. It was a combination of Salem cigarettes and Aqua Velva aftershave. A scent I can hardly describe, but actually like.  Perhaps because of the memories that go with it.

Like the summer that he, my father and I all had matching shirts. Red button down with black stripes. We were all wearing them the day the car went around a curve, the back door flew open and unencumbered by a seatbelt, as was the norm back then, I started to slide across the seat and out the door. My dad’s quick reflexes and strong arm saved the day. He grabbed me and pulled me back in. Would have been messy if not for that.

I’m not sure what was causing that scent today. I had never noticed it at work before. I often notice the smell of cigarettes, but not Aqua Velva. Regardless of its origin that smell seems to have triggered a number of memories. Funny how smells can take you back in time and place.  More than just an olfactory sensation.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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