Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dear Scents from a Promised Land

Dear Scents from a Promised Land,

Every time I get one whiff of you, I'm swept back to early elementary school, in the little village of an island where I was born and grew up. 

Sometimes magically, our senses can trigger past memories through sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch, whether it's in the form of a picture, a song, a scent, a flavor, or a texture.  The other night at a restaurant, I opened a package of crayons for DS, and my inadvertent inhale of those crayons made me remember some other scents that will always have a special place in my heart.

From the time I was in kindergarten to third grade, I lived with my maternal grandparents while my mother studied abroad in the US.  My mother would come back about once a year to visit.  She told me that when she was able to, she would take me back with her and I would be able to go to school there.  At the time, it was a common belief among my peers that America was The Land of the Best of Everything.  The thought that I would one day be able to move there was very exciting and a grand event to look forward to.  It was during these visits from my mother where I became acquainted with three particular scents.

When my mother came back, I would always smell a certain fragrance, and that scent would inevitably be gone when she left.  It was much later, after I came to the US that I realized that fragrance was Jergens Original Scent lotion.  The trademarked cherry-almond scent never fails to whisk me back to the times I would spend imagining my life in the US.  Now, and for quite some time, I still use Jergens lotion, but not the Original Scent version.  In my need for a better moisturizer, I chose function over scent.  The Ultra Healing version does not have the same cherry-almond scent, but it is more moisturizing, and still has a very nice fragrance.  In fact, so nice, that my DD demands to use it and only it.  So every now and then, when I come across the original cherry-almond scent, I immediately think of how much it used to make me look forward to the promised land.

One of the gifts my mother brought back for me during her visits is Hershey's Kisses.  I fell instantly in love with those beautifully-shape little pieces of chocolates wrapped in thin, brittle tin foil.  Thinking back, I was probably afflicted with OCD at an early age, since I always challenged myself to unwrap those candies without tearing the foil wrappers.  And in doing this so very carefully, I had a lot of time to smell the candy before eating it.  It was just as well, because inhaling the smell of Hershey's Kisses was almost just as good as eating them.  Nowadays, I am rarely caught enjoying them, as age is not so accepting to extra calories.  But whenever I do open a bag for my kids, I always place the opening of the bag over my nose and take a LONG, DEEP breath to suck in all the aroma of sugar, cocoa, and milk.  Like I said, smelling them is almost as good as eating them.  So by the transitive rule, if Hershey's Kisses were heavenly, and they are from The Land of the Best of Everything, then that place must be heavenly.

Lastly, my mother also brought me Crayola crayons.  The crayons we used then were pastel crayons, made with a different binder than Crayola crayons.  Pastel crayons goes on paper more smoothly and results in brighter, more uniform colors.  Crayola crayons are wax crayons, which makes it more difficult to blend onto paper, and they exude a distinctive waxy smell.  Even though from personal experience I liked pastel crayons better, these "new" wax crayons must be better since they are from The Land of the Best of Everything!  This simple difference in the way crayons smelled made the impending move to the US even more desirable for me.

This odd mix of scents -- Jergens' cherry-almond scent, Hershey's Kisses chocolates, and Crayola crayons -- are completely unrelated to each other, but in my mind, they represent the existence of The Land of the Best of Everything.  Incidentally, these are NOT my favorite smells; I don't long to smell them all the time. My favorite smells -- the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, my favorite floral perfume, and the smell of oven-baked goodies permeating the house -- are ones that make my feel happy.  But whenever I come across one of these three specific aromas, I am suddenly back to my seven-year-old self, living in the little flat in my hometown, waiting to be transplanted to a new place to call home.

Now my home is in The Land of the Best of Everything, and I do not forget to count my blessings.  The opportunities I have had in life are probably far more than most of my friends back home.  And each time I catch a whiff of any one of you, Scents from a Promised Land, I am humbly reminded of that.



  1. Beautifully written, this is one of the letters that I enjoy most! And I totally know what you mean by associating smell with great memories.

  2. Thank you, Cocoa Chai! Most of my other scents that trigger great memories are from yummy food, but you already knew that! =)

  3. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous. There are definitely memories in scents, and I love how you capture and share each one. I didn't realize that they use pastels so much there - it's interesting that we don't here, but I suppose it's the mess factor. Mister Man's school uses them for art all the time, and I'm constantly on the prowl to make sure that they don't get on my carpet when the art projects come home.

  4. Michelle, It is SO ironic that now I really miss pastel crayons. I guess I should have guessed that art classes would have them, but I haven't come across any since I've been here! =)