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My Favorite Smells

I love the moments when I encounter an experience that takes me back. A certain song will come on the radio and immediately I’m back teasing my bangs and spraying Aqua Net while I sing into my hairbrush. If you are with me when John Cougar Mellencamp, Heart, Madonna, Bon Jovi, or Def Leopard songs come on you might as well jump in and sing along - or run for cover!

Certain foods can take me back. Not all fried chicken is created equally. Whatever my Aunt Louise did to her fried chicken was truly magical, and she’s told everybody how she does it, but none of us can replicate it. Personally, I believe it was cooked with the right combination of love and resentment. Nonetheless, every once in a while I will have a piece of fried chicken that tastes just like hers. It takes me back to days of family get togethers on the farm, running with cousins, swimming in the creek.

Nothing takes me back, though, like the smells of sawdust and plowed earth. Much of my childhood was spent out in the garage with my dad as he built stuff. Dad could make anything, and he always had the patience to let me help. Eventually, I would sit in the chair by the wood-burning stove and fall asleep. Dad would carry me in and put me in bed. Those memories are precious to me,. They were a time when I was loved, I was safe, and I felt like I could do anything in the world. Whenever I smell fresh sawdust I feel safe, secure, and loved.

After living out of state for a few years, I accepted a call to a small church in a small town in central Illinois. On the drive there, following the moving van that held the sum of my life’s possessions, I was questioning whether or not I was doing the right thing. I felt anxious, I had doubts; until we pulled off of the interstate and began down the country road leading to my new home. It was spring and tractors were out working the ground preparing to plant. The smell of freshly turned soil wafted through the car, and I knew I was home. All at once, the patchwork fields, the distant horizon, the tractors, and the earth itself welcomed me home. All would be well.

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