Posted by: deadmousediaries | June 17, 2009

A Scentimental Father’s Day Journey — from Mitchell Kyd

The allure of the fragrance counter is undeniable. The bottles themselves are artfully arranged to first please the eye so the body will follow. Gilded boxes and leather cases all provide a handsome backdrop for compelling shapes in smoky topaz, deepest green and bluest azure. Talented salespeople mist the air on cue to draw you in.

 

Don’t forget Dad on Father’s Day, they purr. Fragrance creates memories.

 

They’re right about that; even the lightest of scents can trigger a flight through memory that instantly shakes off the dust of decades. As Father’s Day rolls around, I’m not thinking of buying you a new cologne or after-shave, Dad, or even trying to match the scent of you I remember as a child. I know I will not find it on their shelves. The special world that ties me just to you, Dad, has been created over time by a combination of memories that can’t be blended for the fragrance counter.

Every little girl who has watched enchanted at the bathroom sink while her daddy shaved can remember how that layering of soap and shaving cream blended to perfection. Dads always emerge from this daily ritual clean, smooth and somehow gentler than their long workdays would seem to allow.

 

At bedtime, lucky little girls draw in the composite scent of Dad before drifting into dreams. They nuzzle in– cheek to cheek– with their very first hero and feel protected by his familiar essence, a dad’s unspoken reassurance that all is right with the world.

 

The leaves of sweet myrrh, a strip of birch bark, even the smell of wet oak leaves all connect me to you and conjure up wonderful memories of our Sunday afternoon walks in the woods. Every walk was an adventure that might turn up a blue jay feather or the remnants of a turtle’s nest in the loose cinder along the abandoned railroad ties.

 

Our November walks took on a different tone as the two of us set off into the woods in the gray morning light, rifles in hand. While the rest of the world was just awakening, we would make our way to some special fallen tree or hidden stump that you had selected days before and sit quietly to see how the day would unfold. The smell of the woods then, in near-winter, was always more earthy, a mixture of dissolving leaves and things preparing for sleep. Even now, at 55, I take pleasure in that woodsy reminder that clings to my families’ boots when they come in from hunting. I become a young girl once again, in awe of her dad, and of the sunrise viewed from the top of Hogback Mountain.

 

The smell of wood smoke and pine always take me back to Christmas at the cabin. I have wonderful, simple memories of you and Pap bustling in and out the back door to get the fireplace going. Long before the coal furnace had done a thorough job in chasing out the chills, the crack of kindling and that first whiff of wood smoke always sent a message that my small spot in the big brown chair would soon be warm.

 

At the holidays now, no matter how fragrant the trees I bring into my own home, none will ever compare to the intense release of scent that would fill the room as you carried our cabin Christmas trees inside. In my remembering, all those trees always towered over me, standing tall from floor to ceiling; you could barely squeeze them through the door. The real magic of the season was never officially uncorked until you had shaken the December cold out of the branches of our Christmas tree and settled it into its reserved spot in the corner.

 

And where would my scentimental memories with you be without the smell of sawdust? Countless boards were transformed into bookshelves and cabinets as the sawdust piles accumulated in your basement workshop. How many hours did I spend with you gathering the leftover bits for my own little projects? I’m sure I was underfoot many times but you always gave me a job where I could feel that I was helping.

 

You made me endless sets of sanding blocks and each stroke sent a fresh wave of pine scent into the air. I loved watching you run the hand plane over the edges and can still see the loose ends of shavings falling to the floor. When Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein produce an atomizer bottle marked Sawdust, I’ll be first in line.

 

As dads go, you’ve always been a great smelling one, in fact, one of the best. From Old Spice to Eternity, you’ve always had the good scents to smell great. And that’s particularly nice for all the other people who know you simply as a good, handsome man. For my part, I like the smell of dirt, trees, and know-how that make you my special dad.

 

Now that I’m grown with children of my own, there are times when I feel incomplete, like I’ve somehow lost all sense of my direction. I know that feeling creeps over me in part because I have turned my back on my outdoor element and have pushed aside some things that connect me to my history. A walk in the woods to cup my hands around sweet myrrh or a visit to the shop to sift through a pile of pine shavings is often all it takes to put me on the path to my own True North once again.

 

Thank you, Dad, for all you’ve done for me for more than half a century and for living the life that inspired this story. It reminds me that I have deep roots and that will always keep me grounded.

 

‘Til Wednesday, Mitchell Kyd

©2009 Mitchell Kyd. All rights reserved.

 

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Responses

  1. I love the “scentimental memories” phrase! I have always been astonished at how a hint of fragrance can bring about a flood of memory – and you captured that perfectly!

    • Thank you – again- loyal reader! I’m hoping to add a photo or two before the weekend. ON the way to WalMart to convert paper to digital!

  2. Yvonne, thanks for bringing back my own memories of time with my dad… Your words paint a wonderful picture – what a tribute to your own 55 years with yours. Keep up the wonderful writing!

  3. Thanks for reminding me how blessed I am to have a Dad much like yours – your written memories are sure to make the best Father’s Day ever.

    • Thanks, Jenna. When I was growing up , there was absolutely nobody like my dad. I stil think he his pretty special. Thanks, too, for catching my amazingly horrendous goof on the address. How sad is that?? !!! Enjoy your weekend!

  4. Lovely – yet again. I look forward to updates as they come.

  5. You knew it would hurt and you were of course, correct. But the pain of losing my Dad HAS dulled over the years – except when someone walks by with Old Spice trailing behind them. Then I am right back on his lap enjoying the stories he told, snuggling into his days-end scruffy chin, relishing the fact that he is actually home for a change (instead of fighting some war, somewhere).
    To the Dads everywhere – from the little girls who still believe they can slay the dragons of the world – we thank you.
    and thanks to you too MK.


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