A bit ago, I was chatting with a friend about what it means to be Home and I asked ‘when did you know you were Home?’. For her, it wasn’t a house, it was the moment she first stepped into the deli on 87th Street in Chicago, around the corner from the new house her family just moved into. She was 11. That was 1962. It’s now 2021 and she can still remember the smell of pickles that greeted her, just inside the door. Like it was yesterday.
In Southern California it’s the weird vegetal/urinous odor of the evergreen box, ubiquitous the whole of LA which, combined with the 10′ rosemary bushes and the eucalyptus trees, comprises a unique smell. It’s lodged in my olfactory memory and signals Home. There’s a box hedge down in Peoria that, in midsummer, brings that memory close and if I’m in a fragile place it can bring me to the brink of tears. Unlikely I will move back to CA, since it seems determined to burn itself out or hurl itself into the sea… but that smell? Immured in my DNA. It’s Home.
For some, it’s a taste (which is triggered by smell, of course). My sister’s was the smell and taste of Jay’s potato chips. Yes. Salty goodness. She could be anywhere, and if she felt anxious she would grab a bag of Jay’s, open it, inhale the smell …and the first (way over-salted) chip to settle on her tongue started settling her fluttery heart right down. She always carried a couple of small bags of Jays with her when she traveled. ‘Makes me feel like I’m home’.
I’m not sure where I am now is really Home, though certain rooms feel more so than others (my bedroom always smells like No5 – it’s probably permeated the walls by now – and that makes me feel lovely). I don’t think it’s the place, per se (though it might be – this is a strange place for me to have landed) but who knows… However, there is one space that makes me feel safe and a bit at home – it’s the little, original kitchen garden, back in the Southwest corner of the garden. I think it’s the walls. Whenever I’m in there, I feel the smell of borage and tomato leaf – even when they’re out of season.
I also assign scents to my definition of others’ Home, whether they like it or not. The first time I visited, a friend’s house had just been cleaned and her cleaner had used Orange oil. Something about that scent, coupled with the warm, comforting feeling of the house itself, affixed it, in my mind, as Her Home. Try as I might, I cannot replicate it in my own house. Yes, it smells amazing (and omg I LOVE me some Orange oil cleaner) – but I can’t identify it as Home for me as I do at her house. Go figure.
So. What defines Home for you? A scent? A taste? The wind through a Summer-opened window? Talk to me.
And for those of you who Talked to Me on A Fine Romance – thank you! That was a Squickton of Fun!!! I had The Girl poke a pawnail and She came up with Sharon C! Congratulations! gmail me (evilauntieanita) with your deets and I’ll get the Yuzu Soda out to you.