Some years, I find the perfect Christmas gift. Some years, I don’t. I nailed it this year. PB opened the present from me and thought it was some stinky men’s cologne. Without even looking at the bottle, he thanked me and set it down. I smiled and said, “Oh, honey, that’s not men’s cologne. You’d better smell it.” With a curious look he lifted off the top and took and whiff. Immediately, his eyes got a far-away, glazed-over look and somebody said, “What’s wrong with dad?”
Here’s the rest of the story: In 1974, my brother was asked to lead the youth part of a weekend retreat at a church several hours away, so I went along for the ride. The first person I met when we arrived was the pastor’s cute sixteen year old son. In the following 48 hours, we got to know each other and flirted a little bit. Ok, a lot. Even at fourteen, I knew what I wanted in a guy — he had to have a strong faith in God, he had to sing, and he had to be good-looking. Check…..check……check. After the potluck dinner on Sunday afternoon, we exchanged addresses in the fellowship hall and promised to write. (I’m referring here to letters. No email, texts or Facebook chats. Gosh, I feel old suddenly.)
A flurry of mail went back and forth over the next few months. He used his best handwriting. I sprayed my envelopes with Emeraude. Hence, the far-away, glazed-over look this Christmas Eve.
Scent has a powerful connection to memory in our brains. The sense of smell is sometimes called “nasal nostalgia” because we have strong associations of past memories with certain scents. When God gave Moses instructions on building the tabernacle, He included a recipe for incense (Exodus 30:34-38) that was to be used exclusively at the place of worship. Just one whiff of that spicy fragrance, and the Israelites were aware that they were entering the presence of the Lord.
Just one whiff of Emeraude, and PB was back in 1974, falling in love with me.