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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Smells of Childhood.... remembered by Miss Ginger!

Miss Ginger has read somewhere that fragrances are the most remembered human perception. We may or may not remember sights or sounds, but are likely to always recognize scent. Such was the case today when a lady at the store was wearing Oscar de la Renta fragrance. It made Miss G whirl in her shoes when she caught a whiff of it, because that was the only fragrance Momma Ginger ever wore! Actually, Momma G was allergic to most perfumes, but her "fragrant luxury" was Oscar de la Renta Dusting Powder, applied lightly after she took a shower! Miss G has always associated the scent with Momma and cleanliness, two of her favorite things on Earth! It got Miss G to thinking about other childhood smells.

My maternal grandmother Zha Zha (that's a whole 'nother blog post!) used Rose Milk hand lotion... the kind they used to advertise on the Lawrence Welk Show! It used to come in a pump bottle shaped like a milk can, but apparently now comes in this plain, non-descript bottle. Many people find the milky rose smell kinda icky and "old ladyish", but it reminds me of my Zha Zha, so I love it very much!

The final of my fond childhood smell memories was a bush outside of my Great Aunt Nen's house, which Momma called a "magnolia fuscata". The buds looked like tiny little magnolia buds, no bigger than the tip of your little finger, and they opened into the tiny litte miniature replicas of a magnolia blossom. But they smelled like a heavenly mix of flowers and bananas, and when the morning sun warmed that bush on a spring morning you could smell it from blocks away! Aunt Nen loved the smell and liked to bring the blossoms indoors, but she found it too strong to have them indoors for too long. So she would put a handful of the buds into this little ceramic pot that she had, and would set the lid askew so the fragrance could waft out. Then, when it became too strong, she would situate the lid completely and "shut off" the fragrance for a while. Miss Ginger still has the pot in her kitchen, but alas has been unable to locate a magnolia fuscata shrub to plant in her yard!

Miss G also remembers some smells that were not so pleasant, but they still make her smile to remember as well.

Growing up, we had an Irish Setter named Holly (this is not actually her) that Miss G loved very much. As is common for the breed, Holly was prone to ear mites, and often got terrible ear infections from them. And when those ears got infected, Lord did that dog stink! When Momma G could take the smell no longer, she and Miss G would go to the vet to get a bottle of the pink ear wash that was the preferred treatment, at least in those days. We would take the poor dog on the back porch, and Momma would help me hold the dog and try to distract me from the HORRIBLE smell as I washed that putrid stuff out of her ears, trying to focus on Momma's soft, calm voice instead of the squirming dog or the nausea welling up in my throat! God, that was a horrible smell!

But, not as bad as the odor at one of Daddy G's best clients, Miscele's Meat Packers. Get your minds out of the gutters, people... it was a SLAUGHTERHOUSE, and it was one of the worst smelling places on Earth! Miss G only ever had to go there with Daddy a couple of times, and she never went past the front reception area, certainly never into the plant itself where there would be dead animals and uncontrollable stench! But that horrible odor started as one pulled into the parking lot, and even the offices stank to high heaven! Miss G remembers once saying to the receptionist "How do you stand it?" to which she replied "Oh, after awhile you don't even notice it!" I can't imagine ever getting used to that smell!

And Miss G's final olifactory memory for today: the pogy plant! South of Lake Charles, where Miss G grew up, was a little coastal town called Cameron, Louisiana. Near Cameron, where the ferry on Highway 27 crossed the Calcasieu Ship Channel, was a fish processing plant where they made fishmeal for fertilizer and animal feed. Fishing for Gulf Menhaden, or pogy, was a big commercial venture for the community. The fish are similar to the menhaden that are used to make sardines, but due to the heat in the Gulf Coast area, they can't be fished successfully for human consumption because their tiny little bodies begin to spoil too rapidly. So, vessels full of rotten fish would pull up to this plant to have have their cargo offloaded, ground, and packaged. When we would go fishing we would boat right past it! As we approached it we always hoped for calm waters and no wake from the ferry. Then we would shout "Floor it, Frank!", and as Daddy G gunned the engines to speed us by we would take a huge gulp of air and try to hold our breath until we made it past the plant! You can't even IMAGINE the horrible stench of that place, but Miss G can remember it like it was yesterday!!
I hope you have enjoyed this sniff back in time! What are some of the fragrances and odors you remember best?!


Zombie Mom said...

I loved this post.. I am all about the scents - and in fact, change my perfume to create memories for the girls..

I love this insight into your life - its such a great perspective into your past.


mrs. miss alaineus said...

what a beautiful tribute to your childhood and family missy!


budisto - the italian terminology for deadheading flowers with great gusto.

Bob said...

Fresh cut grass.
Wet dog.
Sweet tea with lemon.
The air at Lake Tahoe in summer.
Mom's perfume.
New shoes.

Jane said...

I remember the smell of dead ducks in your backyard, as the brothers plucked them.

Joy said...

Good post! What an enjoyable journey into your Southern life and family. Loved it!

Joy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joy said...

Oh, some of mine:

Baking bread at my grandmother's house! Then she'd cut me a slice and spread her own churned butter and homemade strawberry preserves on it. Heaven!

Some kind of Coty powder my mother wore. It was a round orange container with fluffy powder puffs on it and feels like a hug.

Old Spice that Daddy wore. Can't help loving that smell and feeling safe.

Sawed wood and varnish from my next-door neighbor's workshop.

Think I'll blog about this, too.

Bad ones:

Have you ever smelled a paper mill? It has to be the worst ever! Also skunks.

mistress maddie said...

How true this is Miss G! My grandmother wore Rose Milk also as did everyone's I'm guessing. But Juniper Berries, like the bath gel you can now get at Bath And Body Works, always reminds me of my grannie. I have some inhalation beads from another bath company that I take a whiff of everynight before going to bed- it always reminds me of my grannie and I sleep like a baby!

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Good: fresh cut grass, steak.
Bad: Green Pepper on pizza.

Lisa said...

Oh my Miss G, you have sent me back down memory lane as well....Thank you so much for sharing parts of your life with us! You have a gift for reminding me to stop and remember the important things....


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