Fireplace Smell 5.24.2007

By Lynne Hough

There’s a house on Berryhill Rd. between Dogwood Drive and the radio station. At this house, someone takes the time to light a fire most days when it is cold and/or raining.

I don’t know the people who live there. I don’t know even know their last name.

But every workday, and some weekends, I drive past this home. When my car gets about three houses past that burning fireplace, the smoke and the smell catch up with me. It is the most wonderful aroma. Takes me straight back to my childhood: cold nights and bonfires.

The people inside the house, the person who lights that fire, has no idea how I smile when I see the smoke coming from the chimney of their house—long before I experience the smell of their seasoned wood.

I love that smell. It takes me away from the responsibilities of my adult life for just a few seconds. My mind visits times when my frozen nose, ears, fingers, and toes were a welcome sign to me that mom and dad didn’t realize I was still outside playing in the dark.

My biggest worry back then was becoming invisible so my parents would forget how late it was and I could stay up past my bedtime.

They would leave me and my siblings outside to chase fireflies and hide from the headlights of cars coming down the gravel country road—but would remember to call us inside in time for dinner and the Wonderful World of Disney.

Someone down the road would light a fire in a fireplace. The smell would travel in the night breeze and reach us as we ran around in our yard. Even as a child, I would stop and raise my head toward the sky to take in the smell of burning wood.

I loved it then and I love it now.

Same goes for a lawnmower cutting grass. It is the smell of the fresh cut grass and the gasoline from the mower that takes me back.

My mom used to make toast and hot cocoa for us on freezing Indiana mornings. The smell of toast still reminds me of how a cold wooden floor feels under bare feet, when the air is warm and cozy.

A car engine and all its mixed up smells of oil and grease and gasoline and burnt something or another reminds me of my dad bent over under the hood, cursing the car and bashing his knuckles. To this day, I still love the smell of a mechanic’s garage.

So to the person who lives on Berryhill Road with the great smelling fireplace: I don’t know how many winters you’ve been lighting that fire; or how many children playing outside who took the smell as their own personal memory; or even how many times your family enjoyed the warmth of the flames from inside the house, but I know tomorrow morning, it’s supposed to be in the low 40s.

You know what that means.

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