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Making scents of the holidays

by Anthonette Klinkerman

It’s a good thing this isn’t a Scratch-n-Sniff paper. I don’t want to be held responsible for asphyxiating anyone. But how could I possibly write about the holidays without including all the wonderful smells? The real ones, I mean. The air-freshener company interpretation of “pine” doesn’t smell like any naturally occurring tree in this hemisphere, and “sugar cookie” is downright cruel unless the real thing is cooling on the counter.

I’m talking about those scents that take you back to another time. The real scent of cut Douglas Firs from a tree lot takes me right back to searching for just the right tree on a crisp night in San Diego. Watering the tree seemed a waste of time as it usually dried up before we got home. Dutifully we filled the combo tree-stand/water-well underneath, much to the delight of our dogs.

Then there is the scent of wood-smoke. We had a fireplace, and the kids all delighted in throwing wads of wrapping paper into the fire. Considering our shake shingle roof at the time, we were lucky to have avoided a Christmas visit from the fire department.

The scent of a turkey roasting. My parents got up at 4:00 in the morning to get it into the oven to time everything perfectly for the 1:00 arrival of guests.

Candle wax. The candle wax smell you only get at church, with hints of incense. Raised Greek Orthodox, that scent takes me back to long, and I mean LONG, services in itchy dresses and uncomfortable patent leather shoes, followed by smothering hugs from heavily perfumed relatives. Sheer torture when all you wanted to do was get back home and go to sleep so Santa would come faster.

Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin pie always closed the feasts. In the back of your mind you knew you’d have to wait another year for it, so you savored every bite.

Hot chocolate. We would drink it as we drove down “Candy Cane Lane”, a street where every house was decorated. Cars with headlights off would snake slowly through, loads of kids pressing their faces against the glass to take in every detail.

Snow. Well, I’ve since adjusted for the stockyard smell that precedes storms in Denver, but back then my family would drive to the mountains outside of San Diego just to see it and play in it. Note: it’s nicknamed “Sierra Cement” for a reason. Our sled had actual metal runners on it, and a rickety steering system for a false sense of control. Modern sled designs are, thankfully, vastly improved.

My memories aren’t all perfect Norman Rockwell, but they are my memories, and I will always have them. My parents worked hard to make them for me, just as I work to hard to make them for my daughter. So, slowly, deliberately, I breathe deeply this time of year. So should you.



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