Kathyrn Graves

Glycerin and Rosewater

I stood in front of the hand lotion shelves in the store. Scanning the selection, my eyes stopped at a rose flavor. Flipping open the top, I inhaled the scent. Immediately my mind left the store and I was a child again, fascinated by my mother’s hands.

I sat next to her in the pew at church, resting my head in her lap. One of her hands lay in her lap. From my point of view, the blue veins on the back of her hand stood up like mountain ranges. I touched one and it moved. I ran my finger along one side of it and watched it slide over. Then I pressed on the top of it. The vein felt rubbery and soft. I could push it all the way down, but when I raised my finger, it popped back into position. The preacher’s voice droned on like the teacher’s voice in a Charlie Brown TV special. I didn’t understand or pay attention. I had what I needed – my mother’s hands.

I loved these hands because they loved me. I studied them whenever I got the chance. Mom’s hands were well tanned because she loved to be out in the sun, planting the zinnias and petunias that filled her flower beds, weeding and picking the produce from her suburban garden, hanging laundry to dry outside, and reading by the neighborhood pool while I swam for hours on end. Her nails were always short. She said they just wouldn’t grow. And those veins stood up like raised rivers. I knew she worked hard to make our house a homey place and love flowed over me.

Every night I watched her get the glycerin and rosewater bottle from the cabinet and rub it on her hands. The smell was heavenly. I asked her why she put it on, and she told me it helped keep her hands soft. That made me glad. I liked her soft hands, and I wanted soft hands, too. So she shared her precious concoction with me. It became a nightly ritual for both of us that I carried on even after I grew up and left home.

But somewhere along the way, I stopped. I can’t even remember when, or why. I just know I forgot all about it until that day in the store. But one whif was all it took to send the memories flooding in.

Our sense of smell is powerful. As writers, we need to employ this sense, even in non-fiction pieces. It will help us connect with our readers on an almost subliminal level, providing a pathway to their emotions.

What are some ways you have written about aromas? Do you have emotional ties to certain smells, either positive or negative? How can you use these memories to enhance  your writing?

Read more from Kathryn at KathrynGraves.wordpress.com and KathrynGraves.blotgspot.com


3 thoughts on “Glycerin and Rosewater”

  1. Loved this! Scents occasionally bring back childhood memories for me. I have always collected rabbits. When my sons were little they gave me a very small stuffed rabbit covered in beautiful blue flowered fabric. The rabbit had an odor that slapped me in the face with my childhood. After much recollection, I knew what it was! When my sister and I were very young, we would occasionally get “powder mitts”. They were soft, thick mittens that were filled with wonderfully scented powder. When patted against your body, powder covered your skin. THIS was the scent of that rabbit. I still have that rabbit in a dresser drawer after all these years. I sometimes take it out, inhale the scent of my childhood and let the precious memory circle my thoughts.


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