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Bud Grossmann’s
Words of the Week
for the Week of
January 8, 2017

Published as Family History
in a Gramma Letter
dated January 10, 1995

© 1995, 2016 by Bud Grossmann.
All Rights Reserved.

Scout (1990)
  Scout (1990)
© 1990 by Bud Grossmann


Tuesday, January 10, 1995

Dear Gramma,

      My son David belongs to a Boy Scout troop that meets Friday evenings in the cafeteria of a school across town from where we live. Instead of dropping Dave off, and then driving home, and then driving back to get him—and instead of arranging a car pool with parents of other Scouts—I prefer to “hang out” in my Dodge Caravan in the school parking lot for the couple hours that the Scouts meet.

      I like having this block of time in the quiet of the evening when I know I will hear no phone ringing and no wife singing out my name to summon me to perform some little chore around the house. Sometimes, Friday evenings in my van, I nap.

      Last Friday I didn’t plan to nap; I brought a book with me. I liked the book very much—it was Dakota, by Kathleen Norris—but I was weary from a busy day, and, while sitting in my van’s front passenger seat, resting my feet on the dashboard and reading by the light from a streetlamp outside the school building, I began nodding off. I popped open a can of no-longer-cold Pepsi that I had brought along, but the caffeine was insufficient to perk me up.

      I rolled my window all the way down, hoping the chilly night air would revive me, but, no, I felt my mind drifting dreamily a couple states eastward from the Dakotas, to Wisconsin, where you live. What came to me next was not a memory of particular events or sights or sounds; it was more just a sensation that I was with you. I felt like we were sharing a hug, Gramma. I felt the serenity and safety of being a boy in your arms, and, for a moment in time about as long as a sigh, I was unquestionably aware of your scent. Whether it came on the breeze or out of the ink in the book or simply out of nowhere, I am not sure.

      Maybe because you are a short lady, or maybe because you are a plump lady, there were many times years ago when I, entering my teen years and beginning to surpass you in height, encircled you with my arms and gave you a loving (or, often, apologetic) kiss. I breathed deeply of your “grandmotherly” scent, which, last Friday, I recognized in the night air here, many thousands of miles away from you.

      Today I am trying to put that scent into words, but I can’t do it. Cottony, light, fresh, not-floral, not-perfumey. Nope. I can’t find words that would tell someone who has not known the comfort of your embrace just what a wonderful, delicate aroma it is that makes your hug complete. So, if we could bottle it and sell it, Gram, maybe the fancy script etched into the faceted glass of the vial would read Indescribable.

– • –

      “Dad. Let’s go home.” My son’s soft voice, from outside the car window, woke me gently and brought me rapidly west out of Wisconsin, all the way across the Dakotas again, and back here to Hawaii. I blinked and looked out at my son, in his crisp khaki uniform, and then looked up into a star-filled sky. I drew in a deep breath, but my grandmother’s fragrance was gone. I closed my book, and David and I headed home.

      I bet it happens to most everyone: some unexpected scent transports us across time and distance in less than an instant. Fresh-baked bread, a kerosene lamp, the damp wool of a stranger’s overcoat—a million scents, a million memories. Has my chatter in this note brought back for you some sweet moment from your past? Care to share it? I miss you, I love you, Gramma. And I thank you for all your hugs.


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