Fragrant, the smell of a Christmas tree…as intoxicating and palpable smell as there is. I woke from a little holiday induced nap on my couch to the deeply moving smell of a fresh Douglas Fir. The little lights and their waxy cords warming the needles and branches just enough to entice the tree’s aromas to fill both the tiny space that is my living room as well as flip the switch on bits of my cavernous melon illuminating memories and emotions that I had boxed up and tucked away long ago.
I guess I was always a freak when it came to aromas. I was that annoying kid that smelled everything….yes, even the gross stuff and would base half my decision on whether or not liked something, and sometimes someone, by the way it smelled to me. I have always remembered smells just as strongly and vividly as I do sights and sounds, more often than not a scent can trigger a memory or feeling faster than a picture, a song or the written word can.
The gamey, feral aromas of a skunk always remind me of those long car rides back to San Diego from Long Beach, the uncomfortable silence as our VW Bug bumped along the dark highway….my mother making her walk of shame back to our dingy little apartment after having to ask her parents for money, again. An unpleasant smell on my levels, also one that evokes a little fear in me.
Corn tortillas, an aroma that fills me with self satisfaction and a sense of wander…a desire to learn. My odd little summers in Mexico with my American but truly foreign, grandparents. The days and nights left to wander the market stalls, smell and taste things that I had never seen before. The warmth and affection given me by those that really understood why I would rather spend hours alone fondling and sniffing fruits, burring my hands deep into the bins of dried beans, scooping up as many as my tiny hands could hold, lifting them above my head before letting them all rain back into the bin, the laughter and pat on my head when I called them “Pennies from Heaven”. I began my love affair with food there in those stalls but it will forever be the smell of corn tortillas that is the most powerful. My little pockets stuffed with still-warm-from-the-stone tortillas, placed there by a “stranger” their heat and aroma my only company on the long, breezy walk back to the Bourbon and Scotch scented trailer that contained the strangers I had come to visit.
Roasted turkey always meant a happy day. Thanksgiving being my mother’s most beloved holiday. Can’t remember one time that she wasn’t positively giddy once she put the bird in the oven so….well, the smell of roast turkey makes me smile and feel at ease.
Blistex, the thick white clunky goo that my first lover would slather upon his young chapped lips. The tiny jar tucked into the upper pocket of his jeans, the way it would blend with his lotion and cologne…those nervous hands fumbling about my skin, grazing my nipples, making them tingle with want and a craving so powerful that it convinced my young body that I needed him. The first man to love me, like really love me and the first man I would surrender to.
Warm milk and yeasty bread….Europe. My first morning, sleep deprived and lumbering down into the dining room of a Paris hotel. The clank of heavy cutlery, the rustle of the morning paper, the plushy, ornate woven carpet giving beneath my feet, the finding of my spot and ordering my first café.
The brickish orange cleaner that I used to scrub my palms, my nails, the one that used to stain my skin…the scent of a medicine cabinet and alpha, the aroma of visiting my son. His tiny body fighting for life, gasping for air, my cleanser filled nose dipping down into his tiny incubator…taking in that sweet, soft, vulnerable scent. His scent, the one that would forever change my life
Burgundy, discovering that wine was more than something I liked. It was to be as passionate and consuming….as physically and emotionally enveloping as any lover I had known before. The aromas that slithered from the glass like fingers wrapping around my jaw….pulling me closer, deeper. Standing in a cold cellar with five other people while this glass of wine slipped inside me, landed on my frame like a warm, wet mouth, causing my skin to tighten, my eyelids to heavy, the “oh fuck” to escape my lips. The groan as I felt my body demand that I take in more, one more sip, one more stroke, my heart pounding out of my chest, my mouth full of the most intoxicating and sensual lover I had ever tasted, a lifetime to do it over and over again.
A Christmas tree. As the vibrant, green, piney aroma filled my sleepy head I flipped through the pages of mental tasting notes, my connection and history with this most iconic holiday cast member. The first half of my childhood the smell of a Christmas tree made me feel sullen and helpless. We didn’t have a tree during the holidays when I was little, just couldn’t afford one and walking past them each time we entered or exited the supermarket my mother would stop and take deep chest filling sniffs…..likely visiting her own batch of “notes” and each and every time her eyes would fill with tears. Never understood it, knew nothing about her connection to that smell but the feeling was thick with words unsaid. It was a sadness and helplessness that I first connected to that smell.
The second half of my childhood we could afford a tree. One would think having this most longed for thing would inspire jubilation and a feeling of upward mobility, yeah…not so much. We first had a tree when we moved into a house with a man that would taunt, threaten and emotionally torment us. Flaunt the fact that we were lucky to have the tiny space he gave us and if we were not careful, didn’t jump when he snapped, he would yank this “beautiful” home away from us. My second connection with the Christmas tree smell was one of rage. Sure I was angry at him but I was also enraged that my mother once longed for this….brought us there to see what was never really ever going to be something for us. Hated it and in a way, hated her.
Years after moving out of that terrible place we would get a tree and thus began the sullen and miserable month of December. My mother always worried about what she wasn’t able to give. That smell made me feel guilty, like its being in the house was just one more symbol of failure to a woman who was doing all that she could, alone.
Sadness, rage, pity and guilt, these were the boxes I was riffling through as the tree…my tree shared its scent with me. I ran through the notes, reflected on those trees of past but the thing was…I didn’t, couldn’t feel any of it. My little tree, tucked into the corner of my living room, its lights blinking, the ornaments of varying interest, (hockey, wine, Jeremy’s Harry Potter) dangling from its scent saturated branches….my senior in college son sleeping in the next room, my desire to come here, write, talk and be with all of you. Profound happiness. I felt profound happiness as that piney smell swirled around my head, dove into my lungs and wrote the next chapter of notes…another page in the book of smells that will remain with me forever.
Fuck, I’m rambling ( so unlike me) but I just wanted to come here, to this spot where I have gotten to share my love for wine, my passion for the job that I get to do, my rants and revelations…just wanted to come here to thank you all. Your support and affection means more to this wine slinger than you can possibly imagine. You’ve all leant a hand in changing my story, writing the next chapter…there are no words powerful enough to express my gratitude.