February 16, 2010
The Smell of Mummy Dust
The question for today is, "What was your grandparents' home like? Did it have a certain smell or look?
I'm happy that it didn't have the smell of mummy dust, as described in the book I'm currently reading. In Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, Carol goes to visit one of the queens of the small midwestern town. Sinclair Lewis uses such vivid thought-words in his writing, that even if I don't know what the smell of mummy dust smells like, I know it's old and dusty and stale.
He writes, "The age of houses, like the age of men, has small relation to their years. The dull-green cottage of the good Widow Bogart was twenty years old, but it had the antiquity of Cheops, and the smell of mummy-dust. It's neatness rebuked the street....The hallway was dismayingly scrubbed; the kitchen was an exercise in mathematics, with problems worked out in equidistant chairs."
The only smell I can remember from any of my grandparents houses was the unique smell of mothballs which seemed to hang in the air, seeping out of the closets and the clothing it was meant to protect. But even so, that was not at all times. If we ever got to venture into the attic and snoop around with grandma or grandpa at all of their safely kept memories, the smell was stronger.
And then there was the neatness. My house as a child was never as clean and neat as my grandparents houses, even though my mom seemed to work at it constantly. Later when we had our own children, we discovered that there really were not a lot of hours in the day. When we visited our grandparents their houses were ready for drop-in guests.
I am not a grandparent yet, but I can almost guarantee that my home will not have the smell of mummy dust. No matter how old our house or we become it will have a gritty smell of earth ready to sprout new life in the corners where the dust rhinos gather to attack. There will most likely be incense smells lingering in the furniture and books, and pear-smelling candles burning in the kitchen. There might even be the lingering smell of the fresh, home-made italian spaghetti sauce from last nights dinner.
What I remember most about my grandparents houses though was not the smell, but the warmth and unconditional love that our grandparents lavished on us. For me that is a memory more vivid than a picture, orderliness or the smell of mummy dust. It's a memory of life being lived in a house of people that cared about each other.