Ziploc bag helps me remember my father

Ziploc bag helps me remember my father

 

By Chuck Woodbury
ROADSIDE JOURNAL
I was organizing some boxes in my storage locker the other day when I came across my father’s hairbrush. My father died nine years ago. When packing up his stuff back then, I placed the brush in an air-tight Ziploc bag (and put that bag inside another bag) and stored it with other items. 

The brush has many short bristles, and it picked up a lot of hair. Every so often a brush like that needs to be cleaned. My father’s had not been cleaned in a long time, and contained hundreds of his hairs.

What a surprise I got when I opened that Ziploc bag! It was like my father had walked right into the room: I could smell him! I put my nose even closer to the bag and the smell was stronger. It wasn’t a good smell or a bad smell. It was just the way he smelled.

If I closed my eyes, my father was there! It was unnerving. It made me sad, because all of a sudden the memory of him was overpowering, and I felt briefly the same emptyness I felt for months after he died.

I have kept that Ziploc bag handy, and every year on his birthday I open it for about five seconds. With my eyes closed, I sniff. And ever-so-briefly my father is with me again. It’s wonderful.

AFTER THINKING ABOUT THIS, I realized that smell is the one sense we can’t actually imagine at will. I mean, if I close my eyes I can almost see my father’s face. If I concentrate I can hear his voice. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember what he smelled like.

My mother, who died shortly after my father, wore the same perfume every day. When I came into a room, if she were there I would sometimes know it before I saw her. But if I try to remember the smell of that perfume, I cannot. Yet, if someone were to walk into my room today wearing it, I would immediately recall my mother.

I don’t believe that anyone can, at will, imagine a smell of the past. I believe you must actually smell it. I don’t even recall a dream that involved smell.

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Ziploc bag helps me remember my father

  1. Edie

    I still have my mother’s hair net from 1982 tucked away in an envelope. Every now and then, I open the envelope, and ever so briefly, she is standing beside me.

  2. Bob

    2 memories about smell- I once worked in a boatshop, and one day we cut into a piece of [lywood. The smell of the sawdust took me back to my childhood when my dad had made a table for our Lionel trains – it was a remarkable leap back in time.
    The other was a little less pleasant. Many weeks after our grandmother died, my brother & I went to clear out her apartment. When I opened her closet door, the odor of stale cigarette smoke was very evident. She had smoked for years, and her clothes were saturated with the smell of tobacco smoke those many weeks later.

  3. Gilbert Parker

    When our daughter in law passed away at age 27, it was a real heartbreak for our son and the whole family. One of the things his church friends did was to come to the house and wash all of her clothes everything she wore. When our son found out his comment was “All the smells of her are gone.” That upset him for quite a while. So it is not a bad idea to put something in a ziplock bag!!

  4. Shannon

    I have a box containing scarves my mother wore….when I open it I can smell her. It’s comforting because I still miss her so. Now I just wish I’d captured her voice.

  5. Carolyn

    Yes, I agree, savor it.

  6. Buzzelectric

    Beautiful, tear producing. Oh to have a memory like that. Savor it.

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