“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”Helen Keller
Now that it is December, my main focus is to transform our home from autumn to winter. Steve and I are busy chucking pumpkins over the riverbank and snagging fallen pine cones during our daily walks outside. The fragrance of chimney smoke swirling in the air with pine sap immediately transports me back to my childhood on Shoemaker Hill in Mohawk, NY. I’m moved at how a simple smell can take you on a stroll down memory lane.
The Clean Smell of Pine Trees
Nothing evokes great memories of Christmas more than the invigorating smell of fresh pine. We always had a Christmas tree that we picked out ourselves from our lush Scotch pine forest.
One of my father’s businesses was a Christmas tree farm on our 36-acre property. It began one summer in the 1960s when we planted hundreds of Scotch pine saplings on our hillside over a number of years.
However, as each planting reached maturity and were ready to be sold; my father had grown quite fond of them. He couldn’t bear to chop them down, so he let them mature into a formidable forest! So yes, my father, Bob Cross, was a tree hugger!
Ours’ weren’t the prettiest of evergreens; in fact, they were kind of scraggly. But to me, they were majestic pillars of Mother Nature. Additionally, Scotch pine, also called the Scots pine, is the official tree of the land of our paternal heritage, Scotland.
A Wood-burning Fireplace
We lived on a hillside in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York. During the cold winters the house would become a bit drafty. My father built a fireplace at one end of the kitchen, which was the focal point of our home.
The smell of a wood fire brings back so many fond memories of warmth and fun. My younger sister and I would huddle in front of the hot fireplace in the middle of the night to keep warm. We would crack jokes and laugh so loudly we would wake up our parents! Eventually, the fireplace was converted into a wood stove, which wasn’t as pretty, but it still kept us warm.
The fireplace shown is my oldest sister, Rosemary’s. When I visit her, the earthy smells and crackling sounds induce warm memories of our family gatherings, filled shenanigans and laughter.
Let me start by saying my mother was a talented baker. The scent of her cookies wafting from the oven was mouth-watering! To be honest, the aroma of any baked goods takes me back to a fun and carefree childhood. My mother would always have something that smelled wonderful coming out of her kitchen!
In my school days, the anticipation of the upcoming holidays was just as thrilling as the actual holidays. My mother would make cut-out cookies in the shapes of stars, trees and bells. I looked forward to decorating them with green, red and yellow icing. We would ceremoniously eat the cookies with marshmallow-topped mugs of hot cocoa while we watched all the Christmas specials on the TV. My favorite was A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Today all three of my sisters are amazing bakers, like our mother. I never had the interest to learn, but it is nice that they are carrying on the tradition. My sister, Carol, baked and decorated the delicious cookies that are shown.
Italian Sausage, Pepper and Onion Sandwiches
The aroma of hot Italian sausage conjures up my very own ghost of Christmas past! Every Christmas Eve we had hot Italian sausage, pepper and onion sandwiches. The meal always began with a big bowl of tossed salad, with all the works. And it was extra special, because I got to have a splash of wine in my ginger ale!
Today, we are lucky to have found a fantastic local farm store that sells hot Italian sausage rivaling that of my youth: Serenity Acres Farm, Inc. Trust me, you cannot find an authentic hot Italian sausage brand in the supermarkets around here.
I’d like to know: what smells remind you of your fondest childhood holidays?
Thank you for reading! – Barb, the River Blogger (Btrb)
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