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Monday, February 07, 2011

No Wonder Grandma Always Smelled So Good

You just never know how things are going to come together, or how the stars may just line up for you on any given day. Like when one sits down to write and express. I started to tell a coworker about my grandmother one day. We got to chatting about fancy air freshener sprays which reminded me of my grandmother. And that thought turned into another, and that one into yet another. And before I knew it, I had a whole sheet of ideas on my Grandmother.

Grandma and Grandpa moved from Ohio to Ontario, Oregon, around the tail end of the 1920s or 1930. My father was born in 1931 in Ontario. I know that Grandpa was an alcoholic and died of stomach cancer in 1965. Grandma went to work after that. For 90 cents an hour as an assistant at a nursing home. She retired 20 years later making $2.90 per hour. They lived in an old farm house on the outskirts of Ontario. Grandma tells me the story of getting herself all prettied up one day and walking into town to ask the businessman in town about the possibility of actually buying that house...for $4,000. With a single stove for heat. And they did buy it. That's where many of my early memories of Grandma took place. I remember her teeny tiny little black and white television with the rabbit ear antenna. And her black telephone up on the far south wall in the kitchen. I remember her telephone number to this day. I remember the day that the big old giant barn behind her house caught on fire thanks to my own father while he was just trying to burn down a few weeds near the barn. I remember all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins being piled into her small farmhouse kitchen eating on Sundays after church. Chicken and dumplings sticks in my mind for some reason. I remember the first time that my mom had to explain to me what a dumpling was. She never drove until after my Grandfather passed away. Then she bought herself a red Ford Comet that stayed with her until she drove no longer. She made her own clothes -- in fact, she had very few store-bought clothes. And it was all dresses, never trousers on Grandma....the church wouldn't approve. And she never wore jewelry except for her cameo necklace with Grandpa's picture in it and her wristwatch. The church wouldn't approve of jewelry. I would lay awake late at nights listening to a little black AM transistor radio -- KSRV was the station. I looked it up in the telephone book, found the address, and asked Grandma to drive me in the red Comet out to see where KSRV was located....to see where the little voices on the radio were coming from. I also asked her to drive me out to the Ontario airport so I could take a look. There was about as much there way back then as there is today.

And then she decided to leave the big farm house. She, my mom, and I went trailer shopping. They are called manufactured homes today. But this one was a trailer. A single wide. For $5,400. And she lived in that for many years and sold it for $5,200. I think that's where I remember bologna sandwiches on white potato bread (with butter for me, since I thought mayonnaise was the work of the devil just the same way I still believe today). And we'd wash it down with Cragmont cream soda from Safeway. Very often, I'd ride the Trailways bus from Boise to Ontario on Friday evenings. It would leave Boise at 5:30pm and arrive in Ontario at 7:30pm. And Grandma would be waiting for me, sitting in her car next to the Assembly of God church while the bus pulled in.

But the thing that got this whole piece started was when I was chatting with the coworker about good smelling air freshener sprays. Which reminded me of Grandma. You see, I would sneak into Grandma's bathroom when she lived in the trailer house and lock the door and start going through her medicine cabinet. And she had this pretty little can way up on the top shelf. I'd spray it in the air because it smelled good. And it should have. It was Grandma's F.D.S. spray.


Cubby said...

Cool post, although I don't understand the bit about mayonnaise.

A Lewis said...

CUBBY: I can't stand mayonnaise. Never have, never will. Butter only, or dry.

BosGuy said...

I know what you mean about identifying certain scents with locations. I can still recall the faintly musty smell of my grandparent's basement where I spent countless hours playing as a kid...

Oh and BTW, I don't care for mayo at all either

anne marie said...

mayo sux! never liked it, never will. same with miracle whip. it's dry for me.

F.D.S. - bwhahahahaha! BTW, that stuff can really mess with a woman's ladybits...ask me how I know...used once and never again!

anne marie in philly

Mike said...

Now that is some great story-telling!, fun memories and a hilarious twist. Ever wander down the personal hygiene aisle at the supermarket for a blast from the past?

Oh and for what it is worth-- a "no" vote for mayo. Nasty greasy stuff

wcs said...

Have you ever had real mayonnaise? You know, not the kind that you get in a jar, but the kind you make yourself. Just askin'.

And your story reminds me of a Bette Midler line from one of her concerts: "We washed, we showered, we shaved, we FDS'd ourselves into a stupor."

Lemuel said...

Your post took me back to my own grandmothers' homes and they were alive again if only for a few minutes. :)

Blair said...

Ahh, memories. Every time I open a box of mom or dads stuff, the smells take me back. Cool stuff.

It has been nice to drive through Ontario on our frequent road trips to Boise. I can picture so many of your memories as if I was right there with you.

I remember the FDS commercials too. Long ago.

Well written hubby.

Greg said...

LOL! Oh my goodnesss, my Grandma had that spray, too. We could always tell when she was just around teh corner.

Ur-spo said...

our olfactory nerves go right to the most primitive parts of the brain; so smells often evoke emotions quicker than our minds realize it.
I too would give anything to smell again certain rooms and people from the past.

Birdie said...

While I don't share the mayo aversion, I understand it: I'm one of the few people who realizes that cilantro is an evil weed, not the Herb of the Decade.

The smell I associate with my grandmother is the basement, because that's where I went to investigate the mysterious. The rest of the house was boring.