Clean and magical, the bathroom at Grandma's house could be entered through the doors from two bedrooms. That made it excellent for games of hide and seek, but less than optimum for privacy. We kids romped through the rooms, hiding under the dining table, behind the rocking chair, under the brass bed, beneath the treadle sewing machine, inside the closet with the aprons and corsets, behind the bedroom door, and crouched down low in the clawfoot bathtub.
Painted all in white from wood floor to ceiling, the bathroom had a diagonal fascination. The room seemed to exist in an alternate dimension. I never met a lion or a witch in the bathroom, but I can appreciate the magical properties of C. S. Lewis's wardrobe. I don't know if the scent of lemongrass came from Grandma's soaps, from sachets, or from a cleanser. I do know it is one of my strongest early scent memories, along with sauerkraut
A few years ago I received a gift of lemongrass-scented soap. Unwrapping the package sent me back to the hide-and-seek and clawfoot bathtub of childhood adventures. It was the first time I had a name for that scent.
Last winter I became absolutely crazed about finding another bar of lemongrass soap just to experience that magical childhood memory. The smell is close to citronella candles, but tinged with dry lawn mower clippings, gravel roads, and line-dried linens. I finally found a soap at Central Market. The scent reconnected me to chenille bedspreads, down pillows, wedding ring quilts, chintz rose curtains, porcelain figurines, creaking wood floors, and grown-ups chatting in the next room long past my bedtime.
It's a busy week, and I can't track down the sources for studies of smell memories and Alzheimers patients. Seems like I once heard that aroma memories imbed in our most primitive, reptilian brain part beginning earliest in our lives and holding on longest at the end. Someday my sons will need me to sign over Power of Attorney, or my last will and testament. If they want me to be of sound mind, they should probably waft some lemongrass my way.
© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder