Sunday Post 141: Sanford and Son

One of my favorite lines from a TV show was from the old sitcom Sanford and Son.  Fred Sanford enters a house in an upscale neighborhood, something he hasn’t encountered before.  He walks in the front door and takes a deep breath. “This house ain’t got no smell!” he quickly observes.

When Michelle went to camp last summer, she pulled me aside on the night we were packing.


“Yea baby?”

“Can I take one of your t-shirts to camp?”

“I guess.  Is there a particular one you’d like to borrow?”

“No.  I just like your smell.”

I’m glad she’s fond of my odiferousness.  She may be the only one.

I’ve always had a strong olfactory sense.  Jesse would use a towel until I could smell the sour as I walked down the basement steps.

“Dude – what is that smell?”

“What are you talking about?  I don’t smell anything.”

“Burn it – I’ll buy a new one.”

It’s amazing the memories that are attached to the nose.

One day I smelled my grandmother, Idee, in the drugstore although she’d been dead for years.  As I sniffed down the aisle, I came across a familiar round box.  Inside it contained her Coty powder.  Mmmm – it brought happiness to my soul.

At the Y, there would be a distinct smell on the first day of summer as 300 sweaty little kids began tromping through the halls between games of kickball and swimming.  A nice mixture of chlorine and gunk – just like when I was a child.

Recently I put Lisa’s perfume in a drawer.  It had been sitting on the dresser since before she died.  I imagine its five years old.  When she first died, I’d make it a point to open the bottle of Cocoa by Chanel and take a deep whiff.  At the time, it didn’t bring joy.  Instead that scent represented the gaping holes that had torn through my life.

There is a difference between accidentlly running into a smell that fills your soul with memories and aggressively seeking out ways to retrace your grief.  I’m sure there’s a place for both, but it’s important for me not to allow myself to linger in Chanel.

Part of growth is figuring out how to pack up the perfume.  Then, when it pops up unexpectedly, perhaps it will bring joy.

Leave a comment


  1. The 2 last paragraphs are the hardest steps in grief. Your analogy (if that’s the correct term) is exactly dead on for how grief can stay around in a damaging manner.
    I haven’t been able to “put my mom’s perfume away.” I am sure you understand the guilt that rises up when you try. I know Satan would love for me to stay in my pit of misery,believing his lies. Moving forward is heart wrenching. Nobody understands the heart ache in putting that foot through the door of the next chapter in their lives.
    Thanks for the encouragement. The epilogue of your book was also very powerful. It’s my desire to see the positive also. To God be the glory.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  October 27, 2013

      The positive is there – it’s just sometimes hard, so hard to see.

  2. This Thanksgiving will be our first since losing my baby brother and the smells will be hard because he loved Thanksgiving so much and the family time that came with it; however, closer to home, I can’t bake cookies yet. He was always baking cookies, and I just can’t stand the smell anymore. I’m sure this will lessen over time – but that time is not here. Thanks for sharing your journey, it’s been helpful.

    • Our son loved to bake chocolate chip cookies…still can’t bake them, although the smell brings a more of a pleasant memory now than a sad one…a smile, albeit one tinged with sadness wishing he were still here.

      • I’m glad that the smell is bringing more pleasant memories for you – I just can’t imagine a time when it wouldn’t be tinged with a touch of sadness wishing he was still there – and I think that is okay, too!

  3. I randomly will catch a smell of my Grandpa that has been dead since I was in middle school. Now, I’m in my mid-thirties. But I still smell him from time-to-time and it still stops me in my tracks. Love those moments!

  4. Mel Ham

     /  October 27, 2013

    My mama katie’s house smelled like fresh market. All those mingling smells of coffee, cinnamon, bread etc. I had the occasion to go to her house many years after she left the home that I grew up visiting. I had to inspect a group home and didn’t pay attention to the address until I pulled up in the drive way (don’t know where my head was that day). It messed me up going back into this house that was my grandmas’ home for so many years not a group home. The smell wasn’t the same. The living room where all my 16 cousins pallet ed during Christmas holidays. I couldn’t hardly do my job. It was like a twilight zone.

    My mom wore white shoulders when I was little. I think of my very young years when I smell that..don’t know if they still make it. Memories. I cling too tight sometimes. I needed help after I saw Mrs. Beasley in a thrift shop window in Pittsboro one day. REally what does a 48 year old women need with Mrs. BEasley. I felt compelled to rescue her.
    thanks for this …my thoughts went wondering so far away this am when I read this.
    love much Mel…love you regardless Mel

  5. Smells are so incredibly powerful and invoke strong memories. When we packed up Jason’s room a year or so after he died, I held together pretty well until I picked up his cologne. I couldn’t help myself; I had to open it and smell his smell. And then I just couldn’t quit crying. It’s packed away, and has been for a long time. I notice the brand as I walk by the cologne counter at Dillards, but I don’t allow myself to stop and smell. It’s still just too hard, too strong a memory of our son who is no longer here. Perhaps someday that fragrance will bring joy for me, too.

  6. Amazing how scent can trigger emotions and memories. I hope that when you do come across the scent of your wife by chance that it will bring you comfort

  7. Michele Barrows

     /  October 29, 2013

    Well said and brings a smile to my face as I remember.

  8. khanclan

     /  November 8, 2013

    It’s amazing how something as simple as smell can trigger emotions not-so-simple like comfort and pain. I keep my husband’s cologne behind my mirror and every once in a while, I’ll smell it to try and remember him. Nothing triggers. But the smell of a hospital…talk about triggering emotions.

    • Danny Tanner

       /  November 9, 2013

      I have to go to Duke for meetings on occasion. I walk in the door and wham! In my mind I’m right back in the cancer ward.

  9. Scent is a very powerful thing. My daughter smells me all the time and says “you smell nice”. My husband would never ever change his towel. I will smell something and sniff around until I realize that the smell is his towel. I take it off the hook and toss it in the hamper and hang a nice fresh one up for him.
    I just found your blog and am enjoying it. I especially like the references to Raleigh which is where we were before we came to Northern Ireland.


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