The Smell of a Place

A little over three weeks ago my family and I left DC with a loaded down car and moved north to Milwaukee. We had lived in the same house for over 10 years (packing was a trial), and I had (mostly) lived in the DC area for the last twenty years. My wife and daughter have lived their whole lives in Maryland. It is a time of big change and transition.

We knew where we were going - we had already found a place to live. When we arrived I was struck by the smell of the place. It wasn't bad nor good, it just didn't smell like home.

Smells are, as we all know, powerful indicators of place, or memories, they are vital to our sensation of taste. Holding our nose as we take a bite of something drastically changes its taste. A smell of a certain perfume can remind one of someone you haven't thought of in years. For myself, I know there is a certain cleaning product my mother always used and whenever I smell it, as it is fairly common, I am instantly reminded of the house I grew up in. 

We also connect certain smells to different cultures or places. I know the smell of my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, or think of Bali with a certain flowery smell I remember. Smell is a primal sense that ties deeply into our subconscious. It is direct communication.

So, since we arrived, and since our stuff has arrive, we have been busy unpacking, arranging, and cleaning. Every once in a while I have paused and noticed this house's smell. It hasn't changed, is more familiar, but still not my smell.

Yesterday I was out in the garage working on boxes as my daughter rode her bike up and down the street. I had to run back inside for something, and for the first time since we moved into this house my wife was cooking to make dinner. The aroma of the cooking hit me, directly. And in that moment, as clear as the sky, I thought, "This is what home smells like".

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