Penny For Your Thoughts

Have y’all ever noticed how certain smells can trigger buried memories? As a storyteller, I often mention aromas that will help people connect to the story. Ponder that for a minute and you’ll know what I mean.

Think of Vick’s VapoRub. If you’ve ever smelled it before, you can imagine it now. That may be a horrible smell to you, but it isn’t to me. It reminds me of the time when I was a tiny girl; I was extremely sick with bronchitis and a terribly high fever. Late that night, my Daddy came home from his long day at work. When he heard I was sick, my exhausted Daddy rushed into the room and rubbed VapoRub on my back, to try to soothe my congestion. We sat in the darkness of my room, while he hugged me and he told me a story as I drifted off to fitful sleep. For me, VapoRub smells like “love.”

You already know that I hanker for the smell of bacon frying. That takes me back to my Mamaw’s kitchen. I long to sit down with her and snap some beans and listen to her laugh. The scent of Old Spice Aftershave brings forth the memories of all of the men from my childhood; the ones I idolized. They always called me “gal.” When the last of my parent’s generation died, I cried because I knew that no one would ever call me “gal” again. And, of course the fragrance of the cat litter box reminds me that I’d better scoop the poop.

penny.jpgA couple of days ago, I encountered another smell that unexpectedly took me back. I had decided to put all of our loose change into rolls, so we could trade them in for coffee money. As I dumped the coins from my piggybank onto the table, I caught the scent of pennies. Suddenly, in my thoughts, I was at my Grandmommy’s house.

My Grandmommy’s house was a magical place for a child, although my grown-up self looks back on it and is somewhat appalled by the mess. You see, my Grandmommy was the Queen of All Pack Rats. Having lived through the Great Depression, and having had a hard life even before that, my Grandmommy hoarded everything. She went to garage sales, and bought the whole sale! You could hardly get to the furniture because of all the stuff she had stacked everywhere.

But, oh, what marvelous stuff. Name it, you could find it there: wonderful clothing and hats that would today be called “vintage;” delicate glass figurines (thousands of them); antique tools and kitchen gadgets; paintings;old maps; books and magazines. We loved to meddle in all the stuff, and Grandmommy let us, as long as we were careful. She had a wall of bookshelf that only held issues of National Geographic. We loved to sneak those magazines off the shelf and go hide under the honeysuckle vines in her back yard. There, we got to sit and giggle to our hearts content as we looked at pictures of “nekkid people,” we didn’t pretend to be reading the articles.

Sometimes, Grandmommy set up a card table and threw a sheet over it, so we could “play house.” If we set the card table in the right place, our house could have little tunnels that went behind the couch and her recliner. Other times, we sat on her shady front porch in the big swing, pillowed against my Grandmommy’s capacious bosom. We talked and sang and called out “Howdy” to the neighbors who walked down the street. At night, as Grandmommy watched Lawrence Welk on the television, we curled up on the couch with a root beer float.

But, nearly every time we went to Grandmommy’s house, we sorted pennies. My grandmother traded cash for the change that a friend of hers took from the vending machines he owned around town. Our task was to sit at card tables sorting the pennies by year and “mint.” That letter under the date tells where it was minted, and somehow that made a difference to Grandmommy. She was hoping that she would find a rare coin one day that would make her a fortune (just as I keep hoping that I’ll buy a winning lottery ticket). Her old eyes couldn’t see so well anymore, so her grandchildren worked for hours sorting coins and inhaling the scent of pennies.

Grandmommy never found her fortune in those coins. When she died, my mother inherited them. Now that Momma is gone, my little sister has the bulk of them, and they will go to her daughter one day. Maybe by the time they pass through several generations, those pennies will be worth something. Right now, they are priceless, because they hold the memories.


Your sense of smell can take you places that you have forgotten. I know that you have certain aromas that conjure memories in your mind. Close your eyes and think about it. If you’d like, tell me about it. You know I like a story. Just pretend we are all “a settin’ on the porch talkin'” and now it’s your turn.

  10 comments for “Penny For Your Thoughts

  1. April 23, 2007 at 8:42 am

    You’re gifted and can certainly hold my attention throughout the whole post, and better yet, I wait with anticipation to read the next paragraph.

    I tried to sign up to vote for you, but apparently there must be a problem with either my eyes or the site. I filled out the info though it seems there is no “submit” button. So puzzled I had to email them. I’ll keep you posted. I now know why minutes turn into hours when reading blogs. Good grief! Still, what a pleasant visit today.

    I’m quirky about smells so I don’t associate them with a memory, nevertheless I can certainly smell how it can draw us in to remembering our past.

    You’ll be added to the blogroll today as well as a link on my feature posts.

    I’ll be back!

    PS I’m glad to see that the contest and my featured post brought two readers your way, Nancy and Ingrid. Now that’s link love at its best!

    Yes, Rosemarie, I’ve gotten some readers AND I’ve found new blogs to read from your site. I appreciate you signing up to vote. The site was having problems last night (I prefer to think it wasn’t my eyes!) you make me blush with your kind words.~skt

  2. April 23, 2007 at 8:52 am

    I have a love/hate relationship with a lot of smells, being allergic to many things. (Especially flowers.) I love, love vanilla though. And cinnamon. Yum.

    You are such an amazing storyteller. I posted one of the photos from our visit in Galveston over on Flickr, and I’ll be editing them tonight! πŸ˜€

    Thanks, Christine. I look forward to seeing the pics. I remember you saying you were allergic to flowers…I guess that stops all that romantic roses stuff right in its tracks. Vanilla & cinnamon…I’m right there with you. I read a tip somewhere that if you wanted your man to be amorous, the scent of vanilla would do the trick. I have vanilla scented lotion, cologne, room freshener…..~skt

  3. April 23, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Smells do bring back memories whether good or bad. For me sometimes it’s as simple as the way the air smells outside before rain on a cloudy day.

    While I was cruising on my bike yesterday the sky was overcast and due to rain anytime. I was just hoping it would hold off until I was safe and dry at home. Biking in the rain I was immediatly transported back in time to when I was a little girl riding my bike. The smell of the rain coming, the way the clouds looked and I was instantly back to being a little girl again. I remember what it ws like as I rode my banana seat bike on a summer day – with rain on the way. I’d do a pop bottle run and collect as many as I could fit into my basket. Counting myself lucky when it was a 2 litre size, even though that meant less room as I could get a 15c for them. Riding to the corner store I’d go inside and browse the candy aisle for a good 15 minutes before I decided on my purchase of some Hubba Bubba and maybe some jawbreakers(those would usually last the day). Then off I’d ride back home, hoping to get there before the clouds opened up and poured on me.

    I loved this post, as always you are such a good story teller. I always get some good memories from reading your posts. Smells, the way the sky or clouds look on a particular day so many of these things take me to another time, another memory, it’s fun to take time to really remember them.

    Oh, yeah…the scent of rain is good. That’s what I’m talkin’ bout! What a cool story! What’s Hubba Bubba? Bubble gum? We didn’t have that around here. Thanks for sharing, Sweet Tea!~skt

  4. April 23, 2007 at 12:42 pm

    When I grow up and get over my fear of people watching me perform (not the audience, the ones observing) I am going to be a story teller – just like you. Maybe by 110 I will get there.

    Funny, I have a hard time as much as I love writing, describing smells. . .

    Like everyone else so many smells or odors trigger memories. The strongest odor that would quickly trigger a memory I hope to never smell again – burning animal fecal matter – our neighbor did it for years (in the suburbs,) not the country – and we were too poor to afford air conditioning. (Florida, no less)

    But it is the smell of one repeated hamburger and lightly buttered (and over sized) bun oiling my fingers as soon as I began to unwrap it that brings the most memories. Lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion piled on the meat gave it mass that stretched my little fingers to the max. Mayo and ketchup oozed out the sides, threatening my one piece bathing suit and later my itsy bitsy bikinis, no polka dots, but white eyelet (lined, y’all!) I won’t even go into the French fries that have never been equaled but once, at a Walgreens after school, years later, during junior high.

    The country club pool had the ballroom and bar lining one side of the pool decking. Swimmers were allowed to open the bar door and stick there head in to get the attention of the waitresses. It took some bravery to open that door, not because they weren’t the friendliest women or because I was so shy that took a lot out of me (and I was), but because they kept the bar so cold it was a wonder the sweating golfers didn’t get pneumonia if they remained in there for more than one beer and sandwich. Opening that door meant you had to immediately dive into the too warm swimming pool as soon as your order was placed or find the nearest fleece blankets and those were in the trunk of the car, waiting for their turn to separate our backs from the scalding sand at the beach. . Oh my gosh, I forgot this was just a comment. . . Prompts just do me in, I could keep going just on the pool for days, not counting the emotions and the golf course and family time and the Wednesday family nights. I better copy this comment to save as a prompt for a story later. Yikes. You made me laugh, Shelly, in more ways than one.

    LOL! The beauty of being a storyteller is that you don’t HAVE to grow up! You are already a storyteller. Look what you just told us! You described the hamburger, and my mouth started watering. When you mentioned the cold room, I almost got goosebumps. I like to save ideas for prompts, too. I think you have several prompts in the story you just shared. I appreciate hearing it….er, reading it~skt

  5. Jen
    April 23, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    My grandmother had costume jewelry that I played with in her closet. I can’t identify the smell, kind of like moth balls, but more than that.

    I love the smell of coppertone, brings me right to the beach.

    Now here’s an odd one, but on the ferry rides to Nova Scotia, the car deck would have this combined odor of fuel and fish truck. Sounds gross, but to us it meant vacation. Another vacation smell for me is dryer sheets, my mom sticks them all around the furniture when they close up their summer place.

    I love the smell of low tide, the earthy smell of the mud flats mixed with the salt of the air and water.

    I am with Teamouse on the smell before rain, that’s a summertime smell for me.

    I am sure there are more smells, but these are the most poignant to me. Good post to get us thinking.

    Great to hear the stories YOU folks have to share. You’ve talked about Nova Scotia before, and you are making me wish I could go there. Not to smell fuel oil and fish lol just to see it! Thanks for sharing a story with me.~skt

  6. April 23, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Well Gal, what a great story. I remember some of those same things myself. I miss my grandparents and my mom and dad too. I do understand.

    I also voted for you πŸ™‚

    Comedy Plus, you are sweet to go and vote for me and I appreciate it. But, I thank you even more for calling me “gal.” Soon as I saw the word, I started to cry.~skt

  7. April 23, 2007 at 8:48 pm

    Hubba Bubba is gum – of course the sugar loaded kind but it made the best bubbles. I’d chew that are Dubble Bubble. Do you have Dubble Bubble there? The best for blowing the biggest bubbles. ~ good times ~

    Dubble Bubble I know…but I’m not in to blowing bubbles. I got the opportunity to cut gum out of my hair too many times!~skt

  8. April 23, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    πŸ˜€ I get results! πŸ˜€

    Hi! Thank you for contacting the Blogger’s Choice Awards. The bug you experienced has been remedied and you should be able to successfully sign up now. Thanks for your patience and sorry for the inconvenience!

    Jamie Gillespie
    Developer, Blogger’s Choice Awards

  9. Rae
    April 24, 2007 at 12:35 am

    This is my first time reading your blog and I really enjoyed your post..I love the smell of Vicks Vapor Rub..I can sit and smell it for hours. Your post made me think of so many other smells that bring back many wonderful memories..Thank you for sharing this with all of us

  10. April 24, 2007 at 2:07 am

    This is very true. Unfortunately I only relate bad souvenirs to a smell, I don’t know why. Good souvenirs I have with sounds, like a church bell or a cock or such a voice.
    Sometimes it happens that I smell “Miss Dior” parfume and I get almost sick. It reminds me when I stayed 2 weeks with my aunt in Madison/Wisc. while she slowly died of general cancer. She smelled so bad that everyday after having washed her, I put some drops of my parfum on her to make her smell better. She loved it and was so happy about it. Now I am unable to smell this anymore it brings back so bad souvenirs !
    When I smell mint tea I put it together with “sick” Each time I was sick as a child, my grandma gave me mint tea !
    If you like to read how I became an angel and had to bless babies, then you should come to my blog today !

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