The article below, Home, was written by my Nephew Adam Schultz.
Adam, thank you for a well written article that rings true with my senses as well.
Rick Owens – Postal Employee Network
Long ago, someone once told me that a writer is only as good as his or her biography. I beg to differ. A biography is only as good as its writer.
I’ve always had trouble writing biographies, even those required of me when submitting works of fiction or poetry to literary journals and magazines. I find it difficult to speak in the third person, either written or verbally. Call it modesty, call it humility, call it stupidity. I tend to not sell myself well.
The details of a biography (mine, in this case) are really superfluous. Over the span of the posts that will end up here, you will come to know me as I was and, at least to a certain degree, who I am now. Moreover, these posts will help define that crazy process by which children become adults, malleable and impressionable clay forged into a solid sculpture, thrust into an unforgiving and magic-less world and expected to gleam above them all.
Adolescent wonderment is replaced by cold, hard knowledge and experience. It all becomes so ho-hum, routine, been-there-done-that, sleep/eat/work/rinse/repeat. Money is no longer a gift, but a burden. Time starts slipping ever faster towards the end of the line. Days blend, blur, speed away. Seasons shift in mere glances. Years blink by. There is no magic in the adult world, at least through every obligated routine.
And yet, there is magic out there. Not the type you read about in J.K. Rowling novels. Not fanciful, but tangible magic. The type of magic you feel rather than see. That magic you can smell in the air. The skip of your heart as you look into the eyes of your lover. A lurch in the stomach as a smell, sight, sound, touch takes you back in time, reawakening either a single moment or millions of moments in your memory. Reminiscing is magic, healing and soothing, a salve for the over-ho-hummed soul.
Magic, for me, is mostly olfactory. Smells can transplant me from my current location, sending me headlong into a throng of emotions and feelings, usually linked to either memories of moments or groups of moments all linked by that smell. Fall air, with its crisp chilly bite, its scents of dying leaves, birthing harvests, and smoldering wood, sends me reeling every time.
Just the other night, as I was waiting to reach the first window (always where you pay, never where you ask to improve your order, or goad the wrath of the Hamburglar) in the McDonald’s drive-thru, the smell hit me. That idyllic fall/winter air scent, usually hidden by the smell of fat-frying starches that so often bellows forth from the smoke stacks behind the golden arches, had broken through. It was strong with woodfire and dry, rust-colored leaves. I was transported back to a dozen trips or more, all in mere milliseconds. The memories were both instantaneous and painfully fleeting, but the affect they had on my mood was readily apparent. I was happier when I was paying for my food than when I was ordering it.
Nose-tickling smoke. Crisp, chilly air. A street vendor crying out. The dim glow of white bulbs. The soft, harp-like tinkling of a dulcimer, riding the air. The smells. Oh the smells. Caramel apples, taffy, donuts, pancake houses, a thousand fireplaces, pine, freshwater, car exhaust, bratwurst. My God, the smells. Bottle it, turn it to liquid, imbue it in wax, put a wick in it and Yankee Candle will put “Gatlinburg” on the label and sell it for $21.99 plus tax. Gatlinburg, in fall, always after Thanksgiving. The early weeks of December, where the anticipation for Christmas is maddening Christian children across the globe.
Ever year, or at least every other year, my parents and I made the pilgrimage to our home-away-from-home. Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Many of you are familiar with it.. Gatlinburg was, and perhaps still is, my second home.
That’s the feeling. Warmth of the heart. A sense of belonging. A feeling of never wanting to leave. That’s Gatlinburg, and that’s its smell. Home. Just “home.” Nothing more, nothing less. Just home. The same feeling I get when supping with my extended family on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Home. Glorious, safe, welcoming home. Gatlinburg was always like that for my parents and me. It was our home for the first or second week in December of just about every year. I know that town as well as I know my own hometown. I know it much better than the town I live in now.
The Log Cabin Pancake House is off Airport road and is the finest breakfast you’ll eat in town. The Mountain Mall is on the Y-intersection of River Road and the Smoky Mountain parkway, and it has a great record store on its first floor, full of, believe it or not, heavy metal CDs. The Brass Lantern has darn fine spaghetti. Be sure to eat a brat at Fannie Farkley’s. Ripley’s Believe It or Not has a fine arcade. If you don’t or can’t find the Village shopping area, you’re missing out. Take the time to see the Arts and Crafts village outside of town. A trip to Gatlinburg isn’t a trip to Gatlinburg unless you visit the Sugarland Visitor’s Center. I once made a pinecone wreath ornament with a ninety-something schoolteacher from the now-defunct, well-preserved Cades Cove community there. My mom still has it. It’s always on the Christmas tree, even now that I’ve moved out and married.
And then the smell of frying French fries hit my nostrils and my moment of reverie was over. It had lasted only seconds, but it lifted my heart and I was able to give the friendlier-than-usual drive-thru attendant a warm, hearty smile. It was returned and I knew then that the slightly disenfranchised worker had shared a little bit of my momentary lapse. She could see the abject, glowing glee on my face and it had, at least for that moment, spread to her. Or maybe she was just about to get off work and was looking forward to whatever she had planned.
I digress, as I’m oft to do. That’s the feeling I get when I smell certain things. I call it “Home.” Yankee Candle would have my wallet in a heartbeat if they could 100% accurately mimic that scent. Home is more than a place, though. More than a smell. It is an amalgam of sights, sounds, smells, feelings, emotions. Home truly is where the heart is and we need not look further than our most cherished moments and memories to understand that. It may only take a smell to illicit that feeling, but it takes much more to foster, nurture, and grow that feeling.
Adam L. Schultz