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Friday, November 27, 2020

Opinions > Inside Out

The scent of a memory

Nov 16, 2020

By Jeanne Sager - columnist

The other day my kid asked me if I associate certain smells with people.
I said, yes, of course. The smell I always associated with my grandfather was the scent of his mower shop — a mix of gasoline, bar oil, and grease. During summer months, the smell was joined by the sweetness of fresh clipped grass wafting in from across the street where my grandmother's lawn was kept in tip top shape as newly repaired mowers were given a go outside her house.
Grandpa has been gone more than eight years, Grandma even longer, but all it takes is one step into the shop, one deep breath, and they are there. I feel an instant sense of being at home and being loved.
It's reviving and restorative to the soul, but it's also a piece of how I keep them with me.
Last week was the first time I went to the shop in a long time. My brain knew even as we pulled in that the pandemic had changed things. My husband and I dutifully pulled on our masks before starting the walk across the parking lot toward the front door ... a front door we'd never reach.
We read the new signs in the windows warning masks were required, directing you to ring a doorbell.
And then suddenly there he was, my uncle thrusting open a window, his jolly hello still booming despite the layer of cloth over his lips. Ours is not a family known for quiet voices, a fact that may be genetic but then again may be simply a mechanism developed to keep pace with the near constant sounds of roaring chainsaws and puttering motors.
Soon my cousin would appear, also masked, to cart off our defective generator.
Everything was as it should be in a pandemic, proper precautions taken, proper procedures followed to protect everyone in the family and any potential customers too.
But that smell? I never caught even the faintest whiff, not stuck outside on the pavement, not with several layers of cotton across my face.
In the face of hundreds of thousands of deaths, of financial support structures decimated by job losses, I know this tiny bit of loss is nothing more than a speck so tiny it can't even be seen.
But it's all the specks put together that start to tell the story of what this pandemic has stolen away from us all.

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