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Thursday, 08 May 2014

Whew, Some Smell!

By Janet Thompson

As a tiny girl, I bent over easily with my face down sideways on a chair seat. After someone had just gotten up, I always did it every chance I got. It was the first smell I remember.

When a grownup found me doing it, I complained saying, “I'm tired.” Today it sounds gross but back then I loved warming my face and somehow, whatever the lingering scent, it felt comforting.

Never having done it for eons, I tried it again last night - and nothing. Maybe I just didn't create enough of a hot seat.

My plump cat, after sitting up for treats, couldn't wait to hop into any still warm spot. Animals must find something special about it, as she stretched out, snuggled down and lowered her head for a cat nap. In childhood, was I much closer to my animal nature?

* * *

I grew up Catholic, so on Fridays it was always fish or macaroni and cheese. I've never forgotten the unique smell of finnan haddie steaming on the stove. Mother and I loved it.

Finnan haddie is smoked haddock. Like haggis, it’s a lesser-known Scottish tradition. The super-salty fish, after soaking in clear water, is poached in milk with fresh parsley and cracked pepper.

Daddy and my brother hated smelling it and they usually disappeared to the yard while Mother made hamburgers for them.

In the 1970s, Mother and I vacationed at the famous Grossinger’s resort in the Catskills. A long-time favorite performance place for all the Borscht-belt Jewish comedians, the resort had the most extensive menu either of us had ever seen.

There for breakfast was our fondly remembered treat, finnan haddie. It had been years since either of us had tasted it. It was wonderful, except I missed the strong aroma of it steaming.

* * *

In the days before clothes dryers, not much was fresher than the crisp smell of clean cotton sheets and cloth diapers coming off the clothesline. Before folding them, I always buried my nose and face in them first. No variety of sprays or floppy little papers can stimulate and recreate the memory of that sweet, comforting scent today.

* * *

For years my friend, Ralph, gave me a bottle of Shalimar cologne for Christmas. I never had the heart to tell him what I did with it and I guess he never realized I never wore it.

My friend, Vonnie, loved it, so I made brownie points giving it to her. Allergic to most perfumes and cosmetics, when Charlie and Musk were in vogue, I had to get up and move if I ever sat near anyone wearing them.

* * *

Our little dog, Ivan, was a feisty beagle-dachshund mix. He loved to mosey across the busy avenue into Washington Park. If he didn't come home with daisy-dandelion chains around his neck put there by the hippies, he had surfed in the South Lake.

In the summer the drainage wasn't too effective and slippery algae grew among the cattails. Fetid is the best description for Ivan’s smell, when he came home sopping wet.

Hounds dig, so once outside the fence, he covered a large range. One day he was hit by a car on University Boulevard. He limped to one porch and unable to attract anyone, started for another when a caring woman saw him across the street dragging his hind end.

She, daring the traffic, scooped up his broken body and called the dog pound. The officer told her, “I know that dog; he lives across from Wash Park. I never arrest him because he is so cool.”

Ivan’s pelvis was broken in several places, requiring about six weeks in the vet hospital. For those weeks he had to drag his hiney around with his stubby back legs taped and butter-flied to a stiff board. He obstinately went on a hunger strike.

Every afternoon after school, my three kids and I went to the hospital taking him food and treats since he wouldn't touch anything there. For years, if he had to go to the vet, his drill was to pee just outside the door and then right as soon as he got inside, pee again on the clean shiny floor.

He lived to almost seventeen, when I had to bury him in the backyard. To this day, I can't stand the smell of a vet hospital.

Whew! Neither could Ivan!

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Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


What images your story has etched in my mind. It made me think about things I haven't remembered in years. Thanks!

Lovely warm memories evoked here, including one which is warm *only* in 40 years of retrospect.

We lived on a cove. Our fox terrier/whippet cross, Nosy Parker, was not allowed to roam. But occasionally he slipped out when the door didn't latch.

He came home in the wee hours several times after having rolled in rotting fish offal discarded above the tide line by fishermen.

OMG! The stench of him was overpowering and unbearable! It was a 3:00 am bath using Tide for him. He hated baths, but we hated the smell of decaying fish guts even more.

Sure loved the dog though. He died Christmas Eve 1982 and the whole family still tears up remembering his larger-than-life personality.

I think I'll remember clothes fresh from drying in the sun now... sniff


I grew up Catholic,too and the best smell I can remember from my youth is the odor of Hot dogs being cooked at Woolworths on FRIDAY!

Any other day of the week you wouldn't dream of eating a dog at Woolies but FRIDAY, that was different. You weren't allowed to eat a hot dog on FRIDAY which is why they smelled so great then.

After the Church changed their minds about the FRIDAY meat thing,hot dogs no longer made me drift in to Woolworth's on the sweet odor of onions and relish being smeared all over a roller fried hot dog.....

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