Having bid Mother farewell for the morning, Jim Bronson stepped out into the cold and onto the front porch of the 1920s craftsman style house that he had lived in for over thirty years and took a moment to sniff the winter air.
wood burning fire, decaying leaves, whiff of morning pipe from Profile #76 on the corner (cherry, vanilla, tobacco), old paint chips, 70 percent cold winter humidity
This was home, this smell. Front porch, January morning home. He breathed deeply of it, letting it fill him with memories of school days, when Mother would zip him up, tuck in his scarf, and kiss him sweetly on the cheek, her smelling of lipstick, Chanel, cigarette, and spearmint before pointing him to the porch steps to begin his morning journey to a building ripe with the smell of floor wax, play-dough, crayon, furnace heat, dusty carpets, pencil shavings, bathroom cleaners, and other children.
Along with the memories came the feeling, the bittersweet nostalgia that was as Mother’s milk to him. He ached with it, never fully finding satisfaction, only a glimmer of happier times. Just at the point when the smells and memories would begin to quicken into a knowable reality, they would recess back in to the chambers of the past and out of his clinging grasp, leaving only the faint aroma of what had been. It was the best he could do short of inventing a time machine.
He zipped his coat and tucked in his scarf, slinging a faded canvas satchel over his shoulder. Then walked down the steps and the crumbling cement walkway to the ruby red 1978 Volvo 242 which he had maintained himself with meticulous care since the night Mother handed him the keys after his high school graduation. The only two people who had ever sat in it were he and Mother. It would be a slow start this morning, but he didn’t mind. He reached into his pants pocket and produced a bottle labeled #2 and an old, white laced handkerchief, dabbed a single drop of its contents onto the passenger seat, and tenderly rubbed it into the leather upholstery with the cloth. As he began warming up the engine, he took a moment to treasure the smell of the diesel and the odoriferous remnant of Mother who had not ridden with him since becoming ill.
The post office was always his first and last visit. It would be opening in ten minutes. He preferred to visit before the lines formed and the halls were filled with the sounds of chatter and muddled with the smells of the outside world, when he could capture the purest experience and the deepest memories of the love of his life. Before backing out of the one-car driveway, he closed his eyes and savored the craving growing inside of him, and the thought of the nostalgic rush of smells that awaited him.