Monday, September 07, 2009

The Sense of Smell

Did you know that the sense of smell it the most powerful sense for invoking memories? It is very powerful and can bring out memories that otherwise would lay deeply buried in our minds for our whole lives.

I had one of those yesterday. Suddenly, I smelled my grandmother's house and all the memories came flooding back. My grandparents lived in a two story victorian-ish house in a tiny town in rural Iowa. It had a wrap around porch and a doorbell that was a little handle you pulled out that created this horrible buzzing sound. They always had a cat named Tom, even though over the years it was actually several different cats both male and female. 

The house was heated by radiators and I used to like to take my cheese sandwiches and lay them on the radiator to make them warm. There was no furnace fan and instead there were open iron grates in the floor of the second story that allowed warm air to rise up from the first floor. Those open grates were the source of much fun. Us kids would lay on the floor upstairs and spy on the adults downstairs. We watched and listened and giggled with delight at hearing their 'secrets'. 

The backyard was big and had a large berry patch. I don't remember what ind of berries but I remember they were full of stickers and I stayed away after my first encounter with them. The neighbor had a large pop corn cart in their backyard and it fascinated me. I can't even remember how many times I was told to get back ion the yard and stay away from the pop corn cart. It was like something out of the circus! 

My grandfather would take us with him to walk to the local store. The town was so tiny that the 'store' was a tiny grocer with only 2 aisles. They carried the basics, nothing more. I can still remember the pride in my grandfather's voice as he introduced us, his grandkids from the big city. he always let me walk along the top of the brick retaining wall, and I felt so big and brave. My Mom never let me do anything so dangerous. (In  hindsight, the wall was probably about 2 feet tall and he held my hand) 

The room my sister and I slept in had sloping ceilings. At the time I had no idea why the ceilings were like that. I thought they were the coolest thing ever. I could lay in bed and reach up and touch the ceiling. There was also a large ceramic cat. It was creepy and realistic with glittery eyes and so cool. We loved that cat!

But the coolest thing by far about my grandparents house? There was a locked room at the end of the hall upstairs. Oh how our imaginations ran wild. The story was that the room held a friend's furniture and they were storing it for him. We figured that the room actually held a criminally insane relative, shackled to the bed and kept secret form the whole world. At night, we would lay and listen to see if we could hear the chains clank or moaning or a heavy foot fall. Each time we would get close to the door, our breath would catch in our throats and we would feel a shiver of fear up our spines. We would dare each other to touch the door. To look through the key hole. To listen at the door. 

It's funny, my grandmother didn't really like kids all that much and she tended to be a bit harsh, but I have lots of very fond memories of visiting their house, of my grandfather, and the times we all spent there.


Angie said...

I loved reading about your memories! Your story of the secret room behind the locked door reminded me of my grandparents house. They had a closet in their one bathroom that I would have nightmares about.

SaraG said...

Great memories!! It is really odd what will spark a memory!
What small town in Iowa did you Grandparents live? One of my Grandma's lives in Des Moines, the other in Ottumwa. I just got back last Wednes night from a trip to visit.
Take care!!

Wendy said...

Sara, I grew up in Des Moines and my grandparents were in Gilmore City, near Fort Dodge. I loved gorwing up there. It was so Leave it to Beaver-esque!

sarah bess said...

I love this post! You're a great storyteller.