Friday, June 20, 2014

A Life's Scent

Every week, Delores of Under the Porch Light provides a writing challenge to bloggers called Words for Wednesday. She provides a prompt from which writers are encouraged to “write a piece of flash fiction.” You can read more about this challenge at the end of this post.

I decided it would be fun to participate, so I'm writing from a “Words for Wednesday” prompt today. I hesitated, unsure of whether a work of fiction would fit with the niche of this blog. I typically provide informational anecdotes and tips regarding how to make the most of every moment.  Then I realized, the fictional protagonist of my story tells an informational anecdote of just this sort!  

I am a little nervous to share a fictional piece of my writing for the first time.  I will need to hit “publish” as soon as I finish this, so I don't lose my nerve! 




A Life's Scent.

She rocked back and forth in the worn wood of her comfortable rocker, enjoying a morning on the porch.  She could hear her granddaughter inside, rattling pans in the kitchen, preparing breakfast for the two of them.
 
The invigorating smell of freshly-made drip coffee reached her nostrils from the open window. It was suddenly overpowered by an acrid smell of gasoline, as the neighbor boy topped off the tank of her old mower. He was preparing to mow her lawn. 
As so often happened lately, a flood of memories were triggered by these odors.  She noted with surprise, that each phase of her adult life could be associated with a particular scent.

College was the time of strong coffee odors.  Late night studies were always fueled by cup after cup, into which she mixed milk and sugar back then.  She missed the sound of a percolator, replaced by drip machines and now even the hiss of espresso makers.  She remembered with pride the young woman she had been at the time - a trailblazer in her field.
 
During the years of mothering her babies, her nostrils would inhale deeply, trying to capture the sweet smell of her children. And who could forget the burning odor of ammonia in the diaper pail!  Oh well, she mused, better that, than the stench of diapers soggy with poop and pee.


Fresh cut grass.  When they moved from their city apartment to an acreage, she had loved the scent of newly mowed grass wafting in through their open windows.  Her teenage son would spend hours mowing the grass, bribed by an allowance based on the completion of the task.  She sucked the presently green-smelling air into her old lungs, as her mower went up and down her lawn. It was her son Owen (forever a teenager in her mind's eye) that she pictured behind it, not the neighbor boy.  She sighed, the pain of losing him so young still felt like an open wound.


She had not pumped gas, or even learned to drive, until after becoming middle-aged. Her husband had been older than her by nine years.  Until his stroke, he always drove and took care of the car.  When he was no longer able, those responsibilities fell upon her.  She became a competent driver, but always disliked getting the smell of gas on her hands from the handle at the gas pump.  She never could understand why the handle would have gas on it!


Her granddaughter brought out a tray with breakfast, interrupting her travel back in time. Alongside the plate of scrambled eggs and toast was a vase, filled with roses from the garden.  She leaned forward to inhale their heady scent, and closed her eyes, remembering.

After a moment, she fixed her gaze on her granddaughter and said, "When you are my age, there will be a smell that reminds you of every good moment in your life.  For me, it is the smell of roses.  My mother wore a rose-scented perfume.  Roses were in my wedding bouquet.  My children always gave me roses on Mother's day.  And now my grandchild takes care of me, and brings me bouquets of the roses from my garden. A sense of smell has a way of transporting you back in time - so make sure you live many good moments to return to.”

The elderly woman realized that at times her life had smelled like coffee and baby poop, fresh cut grass and gasoline.  It was the scent of roses though, that best represented her long life, filled with some sorrow but many moments of joy.


The perfume of roses from my garden fills the air,
even days after being picked and their petals begin to fall.



The prompt which inspired this piece was: 
"life smells like coffee and baby poop, fresh cut grass and gasoline"
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I would encourage you to take the Words for Wednesday challenge, whether or not you choose to publish what you write.  I found it really enjoyable to write something from a prompt.  (I hope you enjoyed reading it too!)

Here is part of the explanation Dolores provided on her blog about the weekly Words for Wednesday challenge:
“The prompt could be a selection of words, a photo, an idea or a couple of sentences you can use to start a piece of flash fiction.  Write a poem or a story using as much or as little of the prompt as you please or offer us something entirely different as a prompt.  There are no deadlines, no rules...just a bit of good clean fun.” 
Delores generously encourages authors of these works to post what they write either on their own blogs (be sure to link back to her blog  if you do!) or in the comments section on her post.  Before I decided to participate, I read several posts based on the six words (essence, flippant, mercury, speeding, nonchalant, shadowed) that she provided yesterday. Rather than risk my imagination might be influenced by the stories I had read, today I chose to use the phrase mentioned above, which she provided as an optional prompt to write about.

What sort of story comes to your mind when you read this phrase?
Maybe you should write your own story now!

This post was linked to the Motivational Monday Link Party

21 comments :

  1. That was lovely and left this old lady with not a few tears in her eyes....memories triggered by scent....yes indeed. Lovely job, I hope you enjoyed the process.

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    1. Thanks so much Delores - for the opportunity to do this, and your encouraging comment! I look forward to next week's prompt!

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  2. Susan, I think you rose to this challenge really creatively.I found the most touching line to be "my granddaughter takes care of me..." Nicely put.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Susan. I am glad you found this touching!

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  3. Susan, my comment disappeared but I wanted you to know I thought you rose to this challenge beautifully. Very poignant.

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    1. I really appreciate you taking the time to try again! Comments on my blog get posted after approval (to decrease spam) - I wonder if that is why you thought your comment disappeared? I have to say, it is sort of thrilling to hear my writing described as “poignant.” That made my day :)

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  4. Writing prompts are a great way to exercise that muscle!

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    1. I agree. It is fun to see different ways that writers approach the same topic!

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  5. Just lovely and made me think about scents and memories!

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    1. Good memories, I hope! Thanks for commenting!

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  6. You did a beautiful job of bringing both the images and the associated feelings to life.

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    1. Thank you Karen - the protagonist sort of took shape in my imagination as I was writing her, so it actually started to feel like she was someone I knew!

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  7. What a beautiful piece Susan - it made me a little teary! I truly admire your writing abilities. What a fun challenge - I'll have to check it out. Your rose pictures are beautiful.

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    1. Thanks Lana - You would enjoy this challenge too. I only have the one rose bush - it had died completely, but I kept cutting it back, and much to my surprise it is beautiful now! It's flowers were the most recent scent in my memory, so that is how roses came to be in my story!

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    2. Its flowers, not it's! I really should learn to proofread my comments before I publish them!

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  8. You did great with this challenge! Lovely!

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    1. Thanks so much. It was a great phrase to write from!

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  9. Okay, you're definitely one of the group! This was absolutely lovely! I felt I knew your little grandmother as she relived her joys and sorrows triggered by the scents of life. What a joyous, captivating piece! Well done!

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    1. Such a huge compliment, coming from such a talented writer as yourself Diane!
      You really did just made my evening! I have been looking forward to Wednesday all week, to see what the next challenge will be ;)

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  10. I love this! Such a sweet story and you included the prompts so seamlessly. I look forward to you doing another one! Thanks for linking it up to Motivational Monday!

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    1. I'm glad you liked it Marie - and that you for hosting the link-up!! I just finished this writing about this weeks Words for Wednesday prompt, and it will be my post tomorrow.

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Many thanks to everyone who leaves a comment here!