Smells like …. Homesick!

Stuart - Richmond, Virginia
Entered on February 19, 2009
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: family, place

Smells like… homesick.

I believe in the power of tiny moments to rekindle and renew forgotten times of happiness.

I felt homesick this morning. Not after reading wistfully through old letters or tearfully flipping through family photo albums.

I smelled a cantaloupe.

While growing up, each summer day saw a cold cantaloupe on the kitchen counter. Sometimes whole, sometimes cut in half, sometimes sliced, but always there. And the strong smell was always good. If a cantaloupe is really good, you can smell it at the back door before you get in the house. I could always count on cantaloupe after a summer day playing in the pasture, building forts in blackberry bushes, and riding bikes with cousins.

The smell of butterbeans cooking makes me homesick too. Not butterbeans in general, but the smell as they cook. We grew great rows of climbing butterbeans. Shelling them in trays on our laps while sitting in rickety lawn chairs under the tree is a great memory, but I only feel homesick when I smell them cooking. I’m instantly in Mama’s kitchen at suppertime on a hot afternoon. And there would also be cantaloupe on the counter.

I also get that homesick feeling when I smell a field. Our pastures had fencerows covered in blackberries and honeysuckle. The pastures were a mix of buttercups and grasses established years prior. I can’t describe the smell as the sun beats down on a pasture in the heat of the day, but to smell it now makes me want to go home. Somewhere in that scent is a peaceful happiness. And we grew cantaloupes next to the pasture. So many lost memories triggered by so many sweet smells…

But, today I rode a grimy shuttle to work. First I drove in heavy morning traffic to get to the spot where the shuttle picked me up. I smelled exhaust as the shuttle plowed through even more traffic towards downtown. As I watched the city streets fill with cars, pedestrians rush by, and construction cranes causing a racket, someone on the shuttle opened a container. The smell hit me. She had cantaloupe.

I closed my eyes and the sights and smells of a city morning disappeared. Instead, the smell of those few small chunks of cantaloupe took me back home. I could see the kitchen counter, I thought about supper, and I wondered if my cousins were riding bikes. I was homesick.

I smelled a cantaloupe.