Last spring a group of large dudes who have come to be known as The Big Guns built some raised garden beds in our backyard. I love to garden, and this project felt like a big ‘ole sloppy kiss from the Lord right on my cheek. The vegetables, the teachable moments, the vegetables that teach me in moments…our backyard is becoming a full heart kind of place for me. And an unanticipated bonus of this whole yard project: the smells.
Now, granted, I have a very sensitive smeller, so maybe this won’t apply to everyone…but the smells, the smells…they are getting me. I *adore* the smell of a freshly pinched tomato sucker. And bitty E tells me blooming bee balm “smells like cleaner.” (Still not quite sure what that means.) The dirt, even some of the fertilizer (that’s weird, right?), my herbs…I love it all.
But there is one smell that is getting me good.
We used 4×4 cedar posts to construct the raised beds. While The Big Guns were here, they went ahead and cut the remaining posts to construct an archway over our fence gate at a later point in time. (Sometimes Big Guns tire of carting around Heavy Electric Saws.)
Those cedar posts have taken up residence in our garage, just to the side of my car. And they have lit up our garage. Previously the garage smells were not of such a nice variety. Yes, on occasion, based on perfect weather conditions and zero humidity, the garage would smell pleasant. Like a garage should. However, we live in the deep south. Like, put on your diving gear deep. And we have a diapered toddler. So most days our garage smells like hot trapped trash.
Enter cedar posts, stage right.
Back story: I have some grandparents who are of no relation to me. We lost all of our blood grandparents too early, and the loveliest couple who lived in our cul-de-sac stepped in. (So well, in fact, that my younger sister didn’t figure out that we weren’t actually related until high school…but I digress…)
Grammie and Grampie wintered in Florida where we grew up, and then headed back home to their lake cabin up north when the Yankee weather simmered down.
Sometimes waiting for them to come back to Florida took a sweet for-ev-er.
Sometimes we would swim in their pool until we pruned, linger long over a meal at their house, and play elaborate games of Town when their actual grandchildren came to visit.
Sometimes they would take us for dinner and a moon pie at the Po’ Folks, buckled tightly into their station wagon with the faux wood steering wheel.
Sometimes Grammie would put just the perfect amount of butter on an Eggo waffle.
And sometimes Grampie, a retired fireman, would call my mom swearing and spitting because he could see the candles lit too close to the drapes in the front room of our house.
Sometimes Grammie would take us with her on errands, laughing that laugh I could spot at 100 yards with my eyes closed.
And sometimes Grampie’s thumb would actually glow green as he became one with his immaculate yard and perfectly sculpted plants.
(These are special grandparents, and no, you can’t have them.)
Over the years they invited us to their lake cabin up north where we would spend a long week doing all the same activities with a distinctive northeastern twist. (Poor People’s Pub, anyone?)
Those same games of Town, plus bumper pool, lunch atop the boat dock, trips in the canoe to see the beavers, homemade ice cream a-plenty, catching minnows, rope swinging…
Sometimes I’d push the button on the singing bass plaque and throw it into the room where my sister was napping.
Sometimes we’d sit in a lounge chair watching the sun set for so long that we were stiff to walk when we finally decided to get up.
Sometimes we’d take some blueberries or leftovers or a book that had been on loan back to the neighbor’s house and wind up visiting for two hours.
And, oh, Grampie’s fried shrimp.
That lake cabin is hallowed ground. And it’s made of cedar.
(I’m going to need a minute.)
So now every time I set foot in my garage, that distinct smell hits me and the sweet memories they do pour. It connects me to that place and that time, and most importantly, those people. I know I’ve done nothing to deserve the precious love of two people who have loved so selflessly, so endlessly, a family to whom they have no blood relationship. I couldn’t earn it, I had nothing to offer: I was only a child. They just saw a need, took the initiative, and gave themselves.
And that reminds me of someone else I know.
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8)
The smell of cedar has everything and nothing to do with that place all at the same time. It could have as easily been made out of marshmallow fluff and I would have just altered the title of this post. But, oh, the sweetness of the Lord that it smells of cedar—the distinct, unmatched, uncommon, unmistakable smell of cedar.
Sure, David and I give of ourselves now…rarely a day goes by that one (or both) of us don’t feel like the bitties have sucked the last little cell of life or squelched some remaining smidge of independence. But they’re ours. And we’ve got it bad for them. One day, may we look beyond our little nest, pull a Grammie and Grampie, and build a palace of cedar for someone else. May we pour out fragrant offerings before the Lord that look like kindness and generosity toward others. (Ephesians 5:2) May we love the way they loved my sister and I, and loved our parents—probably still grieving over the all too soon loss of their own parents—for this reflects the very sacrifice of Christ himself. May David and I mimic their palace of intangibles. May we live open handed, asking nothing in return. Expecting nothing in return. May we create a space where the feels and the smells have everything and nothing to do with it all at once—because all those feels and smells serve to do is connect you back to the people and the memories that fill it.
*This post is originally from 2015 from Holly’s gardening blog, diggingsuburbia.com. Grammie’s recent passing has given further meaning to the love she gave and shared with those who were not her blood relatives.
About the Author:
Holly Mackle is the curator of the mom humor collaboration Same Here, Sisterfriend, Mostly True Tales of Misadventures in Motherhood, author of the family Advent devotional Little Hearts, Prepare Him Room, and editor at engagingmotherhood.com. She is the wife of a handsome, mama of two flower-sneaking bitties, and a fairly decent gardener and hopefully better humorist for joegardener.com. She spends most of her free time explaining to her two young girls why their hair will not do exactly what Queen Elsa’s does.