Do You have an unforgettable scent …that wafts through you from childhood…

May 22, 2011

I have basically lost my sense of smell ….that  I had in my younger days….

the worst ones were of a dead skunk that was hit on the highway…that you smelled for a good 5 minutes after you passed it on that old two lane “highway” travelling to our summer house  going from Hayward to Cable in Northern Wisconsin
…..and before that it was the gasoline refineries before we got to the Chicago area..it must have been in Illinois or was it Ohio……..they smelled of rotten eggs…and I will never forgive or forget…
as I sat between Mom and Dad…. in the front seat of our (unairconditioned, no  FM radio, no side mirrored, no backup lights  car as Dad would not pay for “extras”) station wagon….. my father calling me a sissy….as I got  sick from the smell of rotten eggs……and for the first time in my life…my mom talking back to him and defending ME…
…. the strongest memories and  most wonderful ones….ARE one’s I had as a child……during that period that unfurled from then …….
…..the strong  smell of beer as you entered the Bobynn Restaurant and Bar on Lake Namekagon….they rented out cabins on the lake where I had spent sometime with my Grands …the Paetzolds ….and WHY we stayed there when my parents owned our summer house just nearby on that wonderful  mile long private wooded drive……….
I have no idea today…guess my parents had not come out from DC at that point…and I must have been working on the Great Northern Railroad laying ribbon rail….and staying with my grands in St Paul on wonderful relief full weekends ..in their house at 825 Fairmont Avenue the Victorian one with the turret on it….very high ceilings …there were two living rooms or parlors…both that could be closed off with doors that slid into the walls…and there was  a bell system …like in old England …to ring for the maid or butler …and the bells rang in the pantry and in the maids room in the attic where Dad slaughtered Daidie’s Easter chicks after they grew too big…as  a child and even when I came up from Carleton College I felt I could hear those poor chicks SCREAM……when I looked at the wallpaper of the maid’s bedroom in the attic….(shudder)
but staying ..with them I  HAD to have a bottle under my bed….as my grandmother was a Christian Scientist and it was EXTREMELY HARD to dine with them as Grandfather NEVER talked and my Grandmother would just tsk all night at  at him for having 2 Scotch on the rocks ….so in order to add some livelihood to the dinner I had to come down fairly lit…as I am a quiet person…(must have inherited from my German Grandfather or maybe from the Danish side of my Grand on the other side)….anyway I was cursed to always NOT talk…..which turned out to be frankly a blessing for me
n back to the Bobynn – the owners name was Bob…and Al Capone use to come up from Chicago back in the day…….anyway it was where my sister Daidie use to play “If I Knew You Were Coming I’d a baked a Cake” on the wonderful jukebox …man I miss Jukeboxes……..and old taverns …..
….the smell of gasoline …due to the Briggs n Stratton pump for our water supply at Burgundy Point…that fed water into an wooden tank on probably 20 foot legs…..that Mom hated to pump…to get the engine going …it was a foot pump….and man could mom cuss in her “gosh darns” alot …..as kids we WERE allowed to rush out…usually in the dark of  the night…..when the tank overflowed  and press the metal to the only spark plug to turn the engine off….we had no electricity …all of the lamps were kerosene…..(sigh!!!)…
you know when you are a child and the only swear words you hear are “Gosh Darn” …well you end up using  them for the rest of your life…as s I do…which probably amazes people around me…but that is what Mom and Dad used..except Dad did occasionally say  “Jesus Christ” as his strongest swear word……anyway I loved that Briggs n Stratton  pump..as it worked so efficiently….back when I had more money I looked into buying stock in the company ..which today makes a lot of airplane engines …… and I will ALWAYS love the smell of gasoline…for that simple reason …..those dark nights ….water cascading down the side of that wooden tank up near the moon…as I ACCOMPLISHED something as a child that my father would like…(yeah I’ll go to my grave with my father complex…)
….the smell of Forest Lodge as you entered off the screened in Porch….that had as you ventured forth to the front door….its “doorbell” a woodpecker that you would wind up to knock ….the door was ALWAYS open tho ..it was a gift from Aunt Mary’s last beau….the weird Ego……the maitre d’ at a restaurant she loved near her Miami house….she almost married him…he convinced her to buy a Rolls Royce..which well if you come from OLD money is like totally NOT necessary…and frankly a WASTE of money….as your old Chevy station wagon still is good enough…..even though you have chauffeurs, butlers and help in all of your houses in Manhattan, Long Island, Jupiter Bay, and Lake Namekagon…..Aunt Mary DID teach me it is NOT the money YOU have it is WHAT you DO  for others….
 – the fully round  logged room that was the parlor (wrong word as is Living Room)..that you enter off the screened in porch where that wood pecker “doorbell” is …….with animal skins on the walls..the stuffed birds…the owl that stared down and scarred me as a child…the Eagle….the old wonderful tall case Grandfather clock…. the original old  maps of what parts of New York State that King George gave  (m probably wrong on this but) the Livingstons (Aunt Mary was a Livingston ) owned most of NY…..(sigh!!)
…..the scent was years and years of a combination of potpourri  of the cut flowers fresh from Aunt Mary’s flower garden  …
(she gave all of us annual  treasure hunts with magical small  gifts made by Meissen or Tiffany….through her pachysandra…to the “fairy” stump….)  …
 the flower garden was near the two greenhouses just beyond the clay tennis court …adjacent to  the vegetable garden beyond the dairy where her Swiss cows spent every AM or was it PM  getting milked before they were put back to pasture…..
…it was basically the scent of the freshly cut flox (?) and then of the wood full  logged walls and ceiling….it was magical…the property was bought by Aunt Mary’s husband from a logging company …for  a hunting cabin after he built the house on Summit Avenue..in St Paul……where he imported walls l from a chateau in  France ..it had a marble ballroom in the  basement …..and when I was a freshman at Carleton I went to visit wonderful Aunt Mary…who was wheel chair bound and came down in one of the first elevators built back when they invented them….the fire was blazing …it was late September of 1965….the maid came by and asked if I wanted a coke…Aunt Mary said…”oh no Gladys..WE want champagne….” well Gladys said “Mrs Griggs he is under age”….Aunt Mary …said well not to me….HE is of AGE……
….when I think of it now…well I believe that I dreamed it all…as such a place is slowly faded into the mist of my memories …..nor does life exist as it did back then ..which I took for granted as a child can only do ….but I realize NOW how fortunate I was….and for that I TRULY  thank the Powers That Be….
….the scent of newly cut grass …from the bowling green that Don  Jallowitz (sp?)   (thank you beautiful Margaret)…..was cutting …..whom I had a crush on at 14   ……the green needed a special lawn mower made for bowling greens or the green at a golf course….I remember though going with the whole  family to the Triangle Bar on a Saturday night…and the Triangle was out in the middle of nowhere…. . all  they played was the  polka there …and man…what a forgotten wonderful dance that is……it was probably one of the happiest times with my sister my parents and I all doing the polka….(another Miss Alice “sigh”!!!!)…and MAN could Don  dance the Polka……
..and then the scent of the wood sawdust  in our Ice House on Burgundy Point…..(where before we had an  actual gas powered refrigerator …we had an actual Ice Box..in which you had to put a  block of ice)…….and the blocks of ice that had been cut int the lake the winter before were stored in the sawdust of the “Ice House”…which had its own magical scent…..and was wonderfully cool on a hot Lake Namekagon day…..
…I FEEL that I was extremely fortunate in my childhood….which I did not realize until later was sooo Unique and magical…..but don’t get me wrong as I love my life today….but am amused at how  the way things have changed…saw the movie Bridesmaid today…with all the flatulence and vomiting…I am afraid I find it somewhat amazing that one has to go in that direction to find humor…..whereas Woody Allen’s new movie “Midnight in Paris” is more the way I go…yeah…I have ALWAYS been different….and was taught as a child that “Gosh” was a swear word…..
…and NOW  in this chapter in Life…I just feel I can still  NEVER give BACK enough……from the “entitlement” I was given ……as Aunt Mary taught me and my parents did …..
… but I do TRY…….as we all should!!!!

3 Responses to “Do You have an unforgettable scent …that wafts through you from childhood…”

  1. ricci said

    Robby,
    This is a WONDERFUL collection of important memories & SMELLS from our lives.
    Keep them coming!
    Love,
    Rick

  2. daidie said

    Rob – you have such a wonderful ability to capture sensory experiences – particularly good on sense of smell. Another trait of a great writer! Love you xxd

  3. Catherine said

    The perfume of childhood’s mist,lenses and veils. Oh xxRob so beautiful:telling the story with scent as the guide and plush anchor.Each vignette ripened and time collapsed!I was there.

    As I sent to you, I hear Horowitz playing Robert Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood.

    Gosh darn WUNNERFUL xxRob

    xCatherine

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