It’s not like there was an itinerary marking this event as a necessity, but every time I went to my grandparents’ house, there was one thing my cousins and I just had to do:
Sit in Grandpa’s garage. Whether we were sweaty and worn after a game of tag, dripping with chlorine after a dip in the pool, or waddling with full and happy bellies after lunch, we would migrate over to Grandpa’s garage.
What would we do? We would sit. We would sit on his John Deere and jerk at the wheel, envisioning ourselves as police officers on a high speed chase after the bad guys.
We would use it as our home base to gather and fabricate intricate plots to manipulate our parents into allow us just one more sleepover that weekend.
We would admire the his well used tools, knowing better than to touch them, but understanding he wouldn’t mind if we did; because he was laid back in that way and loved to see anyone willing to learn and work hard.
We would sometimes just lean on the cars our grandpa was working on, admiring the way he had polished Uncle Steve’s old Thunderbird, and daydream about the day we would drive it, and one day that dream came true when Alex took it to prom.
It was our own little world boxed off from all adults and responsibility and reality, but every time we walked in, there was one part of the visit that remained routine: expressing our love of the smell.
It’s almost like it was this unspoken rule that as we pulled open the heavy white side door, one of us would say, “I love the smell of Grandpa’s garage,” and the rest of us would smile and nod.
The blend of Grandpa’s Joop cologne lingered with soft notes of gasoline and rubber and oil. It was the smell of hard work and familiarity, something so close to us because that mixture of smells boxed up what we knew to be our Grandpa.
That garage was his personal scent; and it had a lulling, hypnotic effect. Even the most sugar-buzzed candy-crazed kids on a summer vacation schedule subjected themselves to moments of silence as they entered, breathing in the familiar smell of Grandpa.