I have a big nose. People without a big nose think it gives me character. People who also have a big nose agree that my nose is big. For most of my childhood and teen years, I hated my nose. There it sat, right in the middle of my face, big and ugly and ruining my chances of modeling or getting a good date. As I have aged, and got that good date- for life-I've cared less about my big nose, except for those awkward moments because it always seems runny. My nose has become more to me that just a bulls eye on my face. It's become a memory generator.
Given the fact that on many days I can't remember where my glasses are when they are on my face, or what someone said to me five minutes ago, I'm awed by how our senses can pull us back to remembering and to recalling so many specific details of the memory, or even how you react now about the overall feeling you had at the original moment.
My big nose is good at connecting me to memories. I'm fascinated how many times, in the course of a day, that I'm taken back to a place, a moment, a memory, because of something I am smelling. Whenever I smell grass I think about summer. I recall days laying on the hammock, in the yard, with the girls. Then I think about how the sun felt on my skin and how green the leaves look against the backdrop of the sky. I think about the rhythm of the girls' breathing as they cradled against my body.
When I smell car exhaust I think of Costa Rica. Sure, that may be negative smell to some, and of course, it's not being bottled by Yankee Candle (the true experts in smell). To me, it reminds me of walking down the road from my host family's house on the way to the bus; getting on and facing a ton of strangers who looked different than me and spoke a language that was not my own. It makes me think about being courageous and stepping outside of the box and adventure.
When I smell apples, pumpkins, or a pile of leaves I think of fall; years and years of fall. I remember new beginnings through years of schooling, new friends and the magic of the seasons. I think of warm days and cool nights, hay rides, hiking, and comfort food.
When I smell mud and water I think of the lake. Again, I feel the sun on my face and I can see the blue-green water of our lake in town and feel the wind breezing through the trees. I see my children laughing. I feel the cold water on my body as I jump from a boat into the middle of the lake and I know that life can not get better than this moment.
When I smell blood I think about the blood smell like no other blood smell. The earthy, organic, magical, powerful smell of birth blood. Yes, some of you may think that is gross and some of you may have blocked that smell from your memory. I can remember that smell as clear as day. That smell reminds me that life is bigger than we are, that life is basic and complicated all at the same time. I recall every pain and I recall the pride. I feel strong yet small and also very blessed.
Then there's the perfect smell. The smell of babies. You may think a baby smells so nice (when she doesn't have poop in her pants) because of lotion, like from Johnson and Johnson, but really they crafted that smell after babies. There's nothing better than the smell of a baby. I loved holding my babies against my chest, their soft heads resting near my chin, just so that I could bend my head and breathe in their perfectness. When I think back to the smell of my girls when they were babies my heart skips a beat. I feel at peace and I also feel sad about how brief that time was in my life.
The smell of masculinity is Joop! Andy's friends will agree that the cologne is synonymous with him. He's worn it since he was a teen and he wears is religiously, so much so that it's likely coming out of his pores. Joop! to me is all things marriage. I know that there is someone much different than me living in my house when I smell Joop! and I'm happy to share my life with this masculine being. I like that smell so much that I'd like to wear his t-shirts to bed if it weren't for the large amount of deodorant he rolls on, which gives his shirts a sandpaper quality.
One of my favorite scents is salt water. I love driving to the coast and rolling down my window to take in a whiff of ocean air. The smell of salt water reminds me of annual trips to the beach with my family- my entire family; waking up at 6 am and traveling caravan-style to the coast; body surfing, getting loads of sand in my hair and swimsuit; eating sandwiches packed by the moms the night before; falling asleep on the car ride home still feeling like I was riding a wave.
The other night after dinner, Andy took the girls to the neighbors' house and gifted me with a few moments to myself. As is often the case in the fall, the day was warm but the night was chilly. I grabbed a sweatshirt and put it on. It was my mom's. She had just left it with us the previous weekend. As I zipped it up around me, I felt like I was putting on a blanket of protection. It smelled just like her. I pulled the hood up over my head and even pulled the whole sweatshirt over my head to take in as much of the smell as I could. My mom, well, she smells awesome. Like Andy and Joop!, my mom has been wearing White Shoulders since my dad started buying it for her decades ago. He now buys it for me and I wear it regularly because it reminds me of her and means I can carry her around with me.
That night, when I smelled that sweatshirt, I remembered every minute of childhood all at once and, like when I remember the smell of my girls as babies, I feel at peace and I feel very, very lucky.
Maybe my nose, in all it's big and lumpy glory, is not going to make me a model but I still like it. It is my amazing olefactory time travel machine.