When I was in Germany last year, I found myself thinking over and over, “I wish I could capture this smell” — instead of a snapshot, a bottle I could stuff it down into and take back home with me. Whether deep down in the forest, in a smelly subway — or at my grandparents’ house. The power of smell — it must be that subconscious nature of it, that you ingest into your soul, without even realizing. Smell has a way of transporting us back, even turning us into a different person, that we no longer are now. It can remind us of who we were, of who we are.
My grandparents’ house was still intact as it always was — all the decorations, dishes, photos, bedspreads — all that made it home — that sacred place, untouched, unbroken, complete. I relished every moment I had there and remembered all the special times spent — really lived — there — from the neighbors across the street, to the balcony and the drying laundry, to the china, to all of those childhood — and later — times.
I gathered many important items, although not enough, packed them in bags and brought them back. When I arrived home and opened them, I realized that I HAD brought the smell back with me, that sacred smell. It sounds crazy, but I’ve kept the bag packed and, sometimes, open and take a big breath.