My grandma, the one I brag about all the time on this blog, has infused my children (and my siblings and I) with a wonder and love of the outdoors, science, birds, rocks, learning, reading, etc. When the kids find an interesting rock or see a new bird they haven't seen before, they can't wait to tell Grandma P. about it. When she had triple bypass surgery when my oldest was about 7 years old, he took two little home-grown crystals from a science kit to the hospital, for her to look at and to keep her company. She still displays them proudly on her end table of "specials."
Several months ago, I took the kids to visit her and she recruited them to help her lug two very old-timey (and very heavy!) suitcases out of her storage closet. She popped them open, and to their wonder and delight, they were full of beautiful specimens of rocks that she and Grandpa P. had collected on their many forays out into the deserts of Utah. At 90 years old, she could remember several of the rocks, where they found them, even telling interesting stories about their discovery. She knew what each specimen was and let the kids pick out as many as they wanted. In the end, both suitcases ended up in the back of my minivan, with kids squabbling over who got what.
One of my sons, who has been collecting rocks since he was a tiny boy and who idolizes his grandma, has a veritable rock museum in his room, with all sorts of interesting and unique rocks and minerals. He ended up with most of the collection, and put the empty suitcase in the garage. I cleaned the garage for several hours yesterday and found the suitcase. It's pretty trashed, and my first thought was to throw it away or send it to the local thrift store. I opened it to make sure there was nothing left inside, and the smell of my grandma's house hit me so hard I started to cry. After holding it and sniffing it for a few minutes (it's a lovely smell!), I closed it back up and put it in a safe place in the garage. Needless to say, I won't be getting rid of the suitcase.
I think it's interesting how smells can take you back so sharply and suddenly to a memory you hadn't even remembered you'd forgotten. My mom wore a particular brand of blush that had a scent to it when I was little, that I loved. She also wore Jovan Musk. Both of those scents take me back to a little-girl-cuddle, nuzzling my face against hers. My dad wore Russian Leather cologne. He asked for some a couple Christmases ago, and I managed to find some. As soon as I smelled it I was back on a weekend visit, riding on his shoulders at the park. My mom's house has a specific smell, and every time we get a package from her the kids love to sniff at it. "It smells like Grandma's house!" Scents have a very nostalgic element to them.