It was Friday and I came home from school filled with anticipation. Friday was the day Grandma baked bread. I could smell the freshly baked, golden brown loaves as I came up the sidewalk to Grandma's kitchen. I knew they would be lined up on her kitchen cabinet cooling. "Grandma, I'm sure hungry," were my first words. She smiled and reached for her big carving knife to cut off the "heel" from one of the loaves. It was still warm and the butter melted as she spread it on the thick slice. From the brown sugar bowl on the table, she spread the slice with sugar. As I dropped my books and pulled a chair to the table, she poured me a glass of cool milk. That was my after school snack. Nothing in this world has ever smelled or tasted better.
Years later, when I worked as a cereal chemist, lending aid to commercial bakeries across the country, I remembered that smell as I was trying to find the bakery in a strange town. As I drove about looking for the bakery, I could tell when I was close, by the smell of baking bread. The tantalizing aroma has always stayed with me.
The smell of fermenting dough also has a characteristic odor. On one occasion, I was sent to a bakery having a problem with their bread production. As I passed the area where the ingredients were mixed together, I detected a strange odor. Something did not smell just right I broke open a cake of compressed yeast and there was the problem. The yeast had been left on the loading dock over the weekend without refrigeration and it had spoiled. The whole production problem was solved with fresh yeast.
Grandpa used horses and mules to do his farming. That required several sets of harness. Each spring before the field work started, he would check over the harness for needed repairs and take the pieces to the harness shop. I loved the smell in the harness shop. The smell of new leather was unique and one that I remember.
The harness shop was a large and busy place. The shopkeeper wore a large leather apron as he gathered the harness and saddles to his work bench for repair. There were whole tanned and finished horse-hides hanging on the wall, to be cut into strips or patterns as needed. In the middle of the room there was a large round tank filled with oil. The mended harness would be hoisted on a pulley up over the tank, and then dropped into the vat of oil. After a short time the harness would be lifted out and the oil allowed to drain back into the tank. The sharp, pungent smell would drift across the shop.
Grandma had a large lilac bush beside the back door. Each year it bloomed in great profusion. I would gather armfuls of the fragrant blossoms and distribute the bouquets around the house. I would also take some of them to my aunt, who lived in town. For that I usually got a big piece of her famous chocolate cake. Later, I would gather bouquets of lily-of-the-valley blooms. They would fill the whole house with their delicate fragrance.
When our youngest daughter was in high school and dating she didn't always adhere to the curfew we had set for her. Because I was the light sleeper it was my responsibility to see that she was home safely after a date. Once, my sleepy wife inquired "Is Marti home yet?"
"Yes," I replied.
"Did you go check?"
"No, I don't need to."
"Then how do you know she is home?" was her response.
"Because I can smell her." That brought my wife up fully awake. "What do you mean, you can smell her?" With that, I had to explain that when daughter went into the bathroom to remove her make-up, the furnace fan picked up the perfume from her cosmetics and wafted it into our bedroom. I knew she was home.
There is another smell that stays with me. It is the smell of a baby, freshly bathed and having a bottle. I am not sure that mothers can identify their own baby strictly by smell as some animals do, but I'll bet they can come close. This may not be classified as an aroma, but it is a smell I will always remember.
There are many other smells and aromas. Not all of them are pleasant. Sometimes the things we smell serve as a precautionary warning. Spoiled food, hot electrical wiring or gas fumes send out warning signals.
The sense of smell is just one of several perceptive functions we have. We may lose our sense of sight and hearing as we grow older, but the sense of smell and taste seem to stay with us longer. This time of the year it is nice to stop and smell the flowers along the way. I think that's why the good Lord put them here --- just for us to enjoy.