I’m surely not the only one who smells certain things which trigger memories. Sometimes I really have to work out to work out exactly what it is I’m remembering, other times I don’t. Usually though, I do get a very strong sense of place and the emotions I would feel around the same time. It’s difficult to explain sometimes why I like the smell of certain things that other people find really strange or don’t even think about, so I’ve decided to write about them.
This is the first.
“Yuck, I hate that smell. Those places shouldn’t be allowed to operate if they stink the place up that much, they’re nothing but sweat shops anyway”.
I smiled. “I like it”.
My friend turned to me, incredulous. “Why?”
“It reminds me of being a kid”.
“What possible hell did you grow up in where you would be subjected to that stench?”
I closed my eyes and inhaled the acrid smell deeply as little flashes of memories ran through my mind.
I’m taken back to the time when I first remember it. We would have races through our huge backyard, daring each other to run to the stables behind our house in the dark when it was scary to be outside. We’d climb onto the roof of the woodsheds, made from a corrugated iron water tank cut in half and slide down the covex edges into the dirt as as our dad would chop the wood with a huge axe. We turned the debris of the deforestation of our front yard into our own private jungle, jumping through tunnels of twisted branches and diving into piles of leaves with reckless abandon. We hijacked our parents attempt at replanting by sitting in the holes dug for their new trees and turning them into mudbaths. I would ride around the lake with my dad and I remember the day when I lost control riding down the main street and had a huge crash. We’d have yabbie races at school and I’d spend weekends at my friend’s farm climbing haystacks or turning the twisted chicken wire in the old coops into hammocks. We’d have to drive to the next town to do our shopping and a hundred kilometres away to find a proper library.
But mostly, when I smell that pungent smell, I see rows upon rows of teeth. Brown teeth, yellow teeth, white teeth, moulds of people’s mouths with missing teeth, more teeth than a child’s eye could comprehend. Raw flames melting hard sheets of pink acrylic over mounds of chalky gums while the man in the big white coat sticks teeth into them – my dad, and the first time I ever saw him working.
We lived in a very small town called Boort in Victoria, population approximately 900. Although I do remember clearly the years before we moved there (I was only 5), it’s where my mind associates being a kid, probably because that’s where I started school and made my first proper friends. My dad was the only dental technician outside the metropolitan area and I’m pretty sure that to this day, 20 years after we left, they still haven’t managed to fill his position. I know they hadn’t when I visited in 2006.