The Smell Of America


flagIn our local Subway today I scurried off to wash my hands before lunch and returned with an obviously nostalgic look on my face prompting Buzz to ask me ‘what?’ I knew if anyone would understand it would be Buzz since we are both immigrants to this country and so slightly embarrassed I told him that the bathroom smelled like America. He smirked slightly and in his best impression of Louis from Family Guy he said “what?” and so I explained to him.

“You mean like the first thing you smelled here? Where did you come in to the country? NY? JFK? That’s in NJ so it would smell like sewer?” I smirked back at him knowing he was being facetious because for all intents and purposes Buzz considers himself a New Yorker. I told him no, that to me there are certain smells from my first few months in this country that remind me of America, just as there are certain smells that remind me of ‘home’.

To me, America smells like the hand soap and air freshener in our Subway bathroom. I don’t know why but it does.

To me, America smells like Dairy Queen because this is the first fast food restaurant we experienced here and boy did we experience it frequently!

To me, America smells like tangerines and an assortment of Bath and Body Works products because when we arrived in this country a few days before Christmas my dad and his new company had left huge gift baskets in each of our bedrooms.

These are things which are easy to put in to words but next to impossible to understand by another. The nostalgic feeling of exhilaration that creeps in to your senses, beginning with just a smell and ending with the vivid memories that wash over your entire being.

I think after the explanation Buzz understood but he did not respond with his own experience. I am not sure whether his lack of an anecdote was due to the fact that he was too young or too confused when he came to America from Taiwan or whether he simply didn’t have one but I can tell you from experience that to me, America has a smell.

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