I encounter something strange every time I walk up the stairs to our apartment. On the third string of steps, a very distinct and familiar scent wafts through the air and it transports me to my grandmother’s basement. The two smell exactly the same.
I am often overcome by scents that recall memories, but this one occurs so consistently it amazes me every time. Regretfully when my sister came to visit, the scent of paint still lingered in our stairwell (of course the handymen had to ruin this for me), and Ethan has never been to her home in Illinois. So I am still the only one who finds this significant.
I cannot begin to describe this smell, but I can describe what it makes me think of. The first part that hits me is the old dining room table that sits wobbly on the cool tile floor and the old padded bar sitting dusty next to the stairs. Another stair up and it’s the old floral couch against the back wall. It sits next to the door that always gave me the heebie jeebies. Up on our landing, it reminds me of the day my dad put on my grandma’s old record player and we listened to The Sound of Music album straight through. And just as I am reaching for our door, I envision the unfinished laundry room with the damp linens my grandmother would hang from the rafters.
It’s odd being reminded of these things daily, especially when I never saw my grandmother on a regular basis. When I was younger, we might have visited once in the summer and around Christmas if the weather allowed, but since growing up it’s been once a year at best. Before my wedding, the last times I had seen her were August 2011, January 2010, and June 2007. She’s the only grandma I’ve known and yet we’ve been so far apart my whole life.
Aside from the basement smell, other things that remind me of her are lamb baking molds, bowling trophies, and my Eddie Blazonczyk tee (which she gave me after my grandfather died). In my basement back home we have some young photographs of her and there are two that resemble Amanda and me. Sometimes when I am surprised or exasperated, an “Oh” comes out of me that sounds just like her. It’s uncanny.
Now that we are in Alaska and time at home will be slim for the next three years, I really don’t know when I will see my grandma next. Considering how little we’ve been present in each others’ lives, it’s amazing that reminders of her continue to pop up even here. These photos of her from my wedding are just so beautiful, they make me wish I knew her more.
Are you often reminded of memories by the random scents you smell? Another frequent scent that I encounter is in the back of an antique store here that smells exactly like my best friend’s childhood living room. And the local post office smells like the hallways of my grade school.
/ photography by Kerrie and Stefan /