Do you smell what I smell?
Since it's the Christmas season, the title is a little play on the song ‘Do You Hear What I Hear.’ I’m thinking about smells that are unforgettable; ones that pull up a memory or signal something. One of my favorite scents is hay drying in the sunshine and another is laurel in bloom. At this time of year, the smell of a fresh cut pine tree makes me take in a deep breath and think Christmastime.
It’s also possible I smell the tiger balm patch on my back since I just slid over the hill with my 51st birthday last week. Just kidding—so not kidding.
So, what can I grab at for a moment of positive thinking? I want you, the person who’s taken the time to visit my blog, to walk away with something positive. Here is my Positive CJ Thoughts (PCT’s) for today. During the holiday season, there are a ton of scents that wash over us and pull us back to both good and bad memories. May we find our own ways to either embrace them or move through them.
Sometimes it can be a scent that transports you back in time. Two of those for me involve the smell of unfiltered Camel cigarettes and Windsong perfume. As I’ve said many times, I believe in the fact that those we love never really leave us. Those two distinctive things will bring the memory of my departed MaMaw, front and center.
I remember the holidays being a special time for her. From my previous blogs I’ve told you I didn’t grow up celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other holiday. The one taste of it I got was at MaMaw’s house. I could see it in her tree and decorations, I could smell it in the cinnamon candles she lit, and I could taste it in her cooking.
It was her tradition to gives small homemade gifts to her favorite customers at the corner grocery store she worked at. When December came around, the trusty waffle iron would come out and she would make batch after batch of soft galettes. These weren’t the flat crisp cookies you find in store packages, but soft waffle shaped cookies. To this day, the smell of sugar and butter wrap around me like one of her hugs. We’d bake these for days and put them in Ziploc bags for her to give out. I can’t resist one if I see them. In my memory, hers were the greatest of all time.
I know it hurt her to not be able to truly celebrate Christmas with me in the traditional sense. I was her first and only grandchild for many years.
She wanted to allow me to enjoy Christmas like a child should, though she tried to honor the letter of my mother’s wishes, if not the law. She’d take me shopping in early December and buy me toys and clothes that would never be wrapped in the ribbons and bows of traditional birthday or Christmas presents. MaMaw never wanted me to feel so left out, so she did her best to avoid that. My birthday falls in December, so she made it a point to make me feel special on the days I spent with her because I wasn’t allowed to celebrate that either. Think of it this way; my religion’s logic was if we didn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, then why would we celebrate our own?
At MaMaw’s house, she had a red tablecloth that she’d put on her table in the formal dining room. It was kept in a special drawer of the buffet and had tiny threads of satin that ran through the linen. She kept it under a clear plastic overlay to keep it from being stained during our big family feasts. (Yes, the same table where I learned to abhor coleslaw.)
Yesterday, I saw an advertisement for one of the few decorations she did put out. A ceramic tree with tiny lightbulbs sat on the bar between the kitchen and the small kitchen table at the back-door entrance. This bar also held an old 8 track tower where she would plug in Elvis’ Blue Christmas Album. Seeing that ad took me right back to her kitchen and the glorious aromas of her cooking washed over me.
Even though the house was huge, MaMaw always felt simple was best. Her tree was in the formal dining room in front of the nook of six-foot windows. We had most of our meals on stools at the large wall-length cabinet in the heart of the house, her kitchen. To me, whatever she cooked was the best there ever was-minus the liver, another food I abhor.
MaMaw has been gone since breast cancer took her in the early ’90s. Even so, those smells I associate with her come to me out of the blue. I’ll be driving down the road, and get a waft of unfiltered Camel cigarettes or Windsong perfume. I’ll open a drawer and smell the small lavender sachet she kept in with that red linen tablecloth. If there are galettes at a bake sale, I can smell them above all the treats. To this day, just like her, cinnamon candles are still my favorite and probably always will be.
I can also attest that there are scents that tend to remind me of less pleasant things. The smell of hospital disinfectant and the chemical smell of the chemo she endured. In equal measure, I’ll never be a fan of Old Spice cologne or English Leather. Those scents remind me of my father and call up unpleasant incidents from childhood. When I was a small child, he also had this strange wax he used to shape his handlebar mustache. I always thought it made him look like the devil himself, especially when he paired it with a goatee. Yes, I look like him-minus the mustache. Mom prides herself on saying that I got her charming personality. Everyone else should thank her too.
I have friends who can’t stand the smell of bourbon because it reminds them of their parents and drunken holiday celebrations. There are also those Christmases I’ve spent on duty at the fire department where the coppery smell of blood or the stench of plastic burning from a house fire have been embedded into my memories.
On to more pleasant thoughts. I think one of my all-time favorite scents will always be brewing coffee. Few things are as comforting as that smell on a cold morning or a snowy winter evening as a cup of java. I don’t think I’ve written a book yet that doesn’t wax poetic on the smell of coffee. My sister-in-law brought us back coffee from her Hawaii trip.
Lately, I’ve had the less than pleasant smell of a puppy when she needs a bath and the more pleasant smell of her Johnson’s Baby Shampoo smell after she’s had one. She has a few other unpleasant smells, but she makes up for it with her excitement to see you even if you've only been gone five minutes.
Christmas should be fun with Jaxx around. Sticks and leaves are some her favorite things in the world and we’re bringing in a bumper crop of them for her in the form of a Christmas tree. Wish us luck.
Lastly, one of my favorite smells is a new book. When you open the pages and fan through them.
There's just something about that ink on paper that has a comforting effect. The fact that I’m getting ready to sit down with a new friend and hear all about their adventures. If someone can figure out how to add smell to an eBook, you’re going to make a mint!
With that, I offer you that new book smell with my latest tale, Forever Chance, Book 2 of the Five Points Series.
It’s just been released and is available currently on the Desert Palm Press website, Amazon, and Smashwords. Coming soon to the Bella Books website as well. Catch up with Chance and Jax as they tangle with bad guys, rescue kids, tackle the opioid epidemic, and introduce us to new friends as they plan their Christmas wedding. No better time to say ‘I do.’
You can download a sneak peek at the book on the Desert Palm Press website. https://desertpalmpress.com/product/forever-chance-by-cj-murphy/
In honor of my 51st year here on earth, I’ll give you a bit here to whet your appetite.
Outside, the sky was a pale blue, and a few discarded leaves rustled in the street. Most were still on the trees and green. It would be October before the inevitable turn would begin. She loaded Zeus into her Suburban and turned to go to the clinic. The morning run with Jax had been enjoyable, as had the cup of coffee with their meal. Breakfast had been quick, after they’d made love in the shower. She could still feel Jax’s lips on her skin. Making love with Jax was a near addiction, and Chance vowed to make her feel treasured every day of her life.
Her radio crackled. “Comm Center to SD-1.”
She picked up her mic. “SD-1. Go ahead.”
“State Police Unit 207 is requesting backup on a domestic call on Route 72.”
Chance flipped on her lights and made a sharp U-turn in the road. “SD-1 responding. Size up?”
“Man barricaded in his house with a gun, holding his wife and one of his children hostage. An older child escaped and ran to the neighbors to make the call.”
Chance wanted to make sure Taylor had copied the radio traffic. “SD-1 to SD-2.”
Taylor came up on the radio. “SD-2 is responding.”
“SD-1 to 207.”
Harley answered the radio. “Let’s move to encrypted, Chance. I’m near St. George.”
Chance flipped her radio. “I’m passing Holly Meadows now. Not sure of Taylor’s location. Five to seven-minute ETA.”
“It’s Chuck Wilson. He’s got his wife Mary and a six-month-old infant barricaded in the back bedroom of the house. The seven-year-old ran next door. The kid that made the call was at home because he was sick. All he could say was his dad had a gun and wouldn’t let his mom go. No clue what kind yet. When she signed the domestic against him last month, we took an arsenal out of there. She’s filed for divorce.”
Chance thought about her run-ins with Chuck. He was likely high or drunk. “He’s probably on something if his priors hold true. Any other troopers coming?”
“From off the mountain. I’ve also got one coming from the Preston County end, but it will be a while for that one.”
“Break. SD-2, what’s your location?”
Taylor’s voice came over the radio, blended with the sound of the siren. “On Route 72, about five behind you.”
Chance put down her mic and concentrated on the road. In less than three minutes, she pulled near Harley’s cruiser. Once her vehicle was in position, she released Zeus and came to Harley’s side.
“I’m hoping this doesn’t go south any more than it already has. Chuck threatened to kill her the last time. No shots fired as of yet. As soon as I see Taylor’s cruiser, I’m making a call to the house.”
“Okay, Zeus and I will make our way around the backside. Taylor has Midas with her. How close is your other trooper?”
“He was coming down Sugarlands a few minutes ago.”
“Keep your head down. There’s Taylor.” Chance crouched and ran back to her chief deputy. Midas jumped out to his partner’s side. “Make your way around to the back toward that kitchen door. I’m betting he’s in that master bedroom. I’ll be on the other side. I’ve got reinforcements coming. He’s got the baby and Mary in with him. I’m assuming little Charlie is still with the neighbor.”
A shot broke through a window, followed by an angry voice. “Clear the fuck out of here, or I’ll kill them both.”
Chance and Taylor rolled to the right side of the house and took cover behind the disabled vehicles dotting the overgrown yard.
Harley took the lead in negotiations. “Chuck, you need to let them go before this gets out of hand.”
“It got out of hand the minute she threw me out. This is my house. She’s my wife, and these are my kids. I’m in charge here, not this bitch.”
Chance could see movement in one corner of the room through a window on the opposite side. She made her way to below the window and peered in. Mary sat on the bed, holding the baby, as Chuck paced the room near the window. He had a pistol in his hand. She could hear him screaming at Mary.
Harley yelled, continuing the dialogue. “Chuck, you have to let them go. No matter what’s happened, we can work it out. If you harm them, it will only get worse.”
“I’m not going back to jail. I’ll kill us all before that happens.”
Taylor moved closer to the side of the house, within Chance’s sight. Chance needed to figure out a way to get Chuck separated from Mary. She didn’t see a way to send Zeus or Midas in safely, unless she could get them into the attached bathroom. The window was partially opened. She stood and tried to raise it. The sash stuck at first, then finally moved up. Harley still had him engaged. Chance looked around the yard and found a milk crate that would allow her to climb in the window without difficulty. She was grateful this was an old farmhouse with large windows and not the smaller windows found in most modern construction. Zeus was at her side. She bent down to pick him up and help him through the window. She whispered, “Zit.” In the background, she could hear Harley continuing to negotiate and the sound of another siren approaching. She followed Zeus through the window.
“Get off my land! I’ll kill the first person who comes through my door.”
Harley’s voice remained calm and measured. “Chuck, you’ve got to put down the gun and come out. Don’t harm Mary or the baby. Doing that won’t serve any purpose and will land you in jail for the rest of your life.”
“Not if I’m dead too.”
Want to know what happens next? You’ll have to get the book. I’ll likely have a Christmas Contest where you can win an autographed copy or an eBook. I’m happy to say that Desert Palm Press is going to be participating in the annual Hootenanny where you can win your choice of books from my publisher. I’ve also got signed books in the offerings.
This year, we harvested our Christmas tree from our land. Many years before we built the house, we planted a small grove in anticipation of cutting our own with the kids.
Unfortunately, when they got to a certain size, the local black bears apparently thought they made terrific back scratchers and broke the majority of them. One still stands unbroken in the middle, and before they had a chance to get to it, we'll make 'Eve' (yes, I name my trees) this year’s centerpiece in our home.
I have great hopes of doing a Christmas blog, Murphy’s Law style, with a contest to win a copy of one or more of my books. Try and make your world as positive as you can in the discord around us. I recognize that the holidays are very hard for so many. For me, it’s an opportunity to enjoy in a season that took me twenty-one years to get a ‘Chance’ to enjoy. I’m like a big kid and I try to make it joyous for those around me. So, from my house to yours, Happy Holidays, however you celebrate.