Monday, September 30, 2013


The LWML, which stands for Lutheran Women's Missionary League, but what I call the Lutheran Women's MILITARY league (because they are so mean to men most of the time) at church is having this huge book sale to raise money for their missions. Yesterday at church Callum, as he always does, had to go to the bathroom during church. He likes his privacy and he likes for me to wait outside the door. While I did that I noticed brown paper bag upon brown paper bag of old paperbacks, lining the he floor beneath the wall-hung mailboxes of parishioners. People had been bringing in their old books to donate to the book sale. I love old paperbacks, and, truth be told, I often DO judge a book by its cover--I love the art work. I picked up a few of the books to peruse while Callum finished, and, as I picked up a few volumes, I was overwhelmed by the smell of mothballs. Someone in our church lives a life resplendent with mothballs. And, as I often do when I smell mothballs, I was instantly reminded of my grandmother on my dad's side, Nana Goldsmith

Nana and Papa Goldsmith always, for the duration of the time I knew them, lived in Sullivan Towers, on the eighth floor, at the end of the hallways, on the right hand side, in Brockton Mass. The three sensory images I always associate with my grandparents are the thick and pervasive tinge of mothballs (their closet reeked of them), the underlying smell of cooking grease (Papa always made me a KILLER cheeseburger while I watched Spiderman on Saturday mornings/noontimes--he cooked it in a frying pan) and the sticky touch of their abhorrently ugly black fake leather couch. Sorry. I hated that couch.

Funny how 'smells' can bring you back to childhood memories, huh? Smells, I would argue, are often times the unsung heroes of sensory images, always losing out to tactile and visual things like photographs, souvenirs, jewelry, clothing, and other things that stimulate memories. Smells often--and wrongly so--get left out of the mix. 

I am a huge 'scent' guy--just ask anyone. I smell new magazines, new paperbacks, old paperbacks, my children and wife's heads, you name it. I am weird. And when I smell unpleasant things like mothballs, I am led to beautiful memories of times spent with my grandparents, Nana and Papa Goldsmith. Papa held on until I was about 18 or so, but Nana left us too soon. She always saved her change--particularly pennies--for my sister (and sometimes me) to roll and cash in. Kids today have no clue what it means to roll change. But she had these zip lock bags full of pennies, and I can remember smelling the actual pennies and I can remember how awful your hands smelled--metally and dirty--after handling the change. Nana always had Sara Lee Pound Cake for my sister--dry, thick, dense pound cake. My sister loved that stuff.

Think about this idea (as I am sitting here, reflectively, trying to do): What smells do you associate with your past? Sound weird to the casual passerby, I know, but consider it. And I think you will be surprised.

Life stinks. haha

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