The smell of nostalgia

November 10, 2014

When I was a youngster in Detroit, a “chore” I enjoyed doing was mowing the lawn. Nothing petrol/gas driven, just a simple hand mower that made a lovely twirling sound when pushed.

I could earn a quarter if I mowed the neighbour’s lawn, or a couple of dimes, at least. Pocket money, for sure, but more than the money, the best part about mowing was to both see the straight mown marks across the freshly cut lawn, and, to breath in the fragrance of this cut grass.


Whoever has mown lawns as a kid knows exactly what I’m talking about. Seeing the tire marks signified a job well done. And the smell — so uniquely suburban and innocent.

As an adult, the sweet nostalgia this smell can elicit when mowing one’s own heavily mortgaged house lawn, makes life seem to be a perpetually soft, easy going Sunday afternoon. Except now, the sweat accompanying this nostalgia is accompanied with a gin and tonic instead of lemonade.

In the below photo, my G&T “sit spot” is at the far end of the curving retainer wall.


But back up a bit, dear reader, and place yourself just behind the flowering red kangaroo paws and take in all that the photo shows. Looks rather picturesque, yes? Nicely mown lawn, blue sky, balanced composition; tranquility.

Step closer and gaze down at the white flowering prostrate kunzia bush in front of the massive stone guardians at the entrance to the house.


Rather tame looking, isn’t it.

And this is my point. No smart phone or iPad or blog photo can deliver the smells associated with being outdoors. In the case of the kunzia flowers, their fragrance has to be the most sensual of all flowering plants: a deeply delicious buttery coconut.

Stick your nose into these flowers and one cannot help but be transported to an adolescent summer’s day where one’s fingers are tentatively rubbing sun tan oil onto the skin of the first person you’ve kissed.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alex November 19, 2014 at 11:04 pm

Nothing beats the smell of freshly cut grass. It’s the smell of Summer, and of a happily spent youth. Unfortunately I was never allowed to mow the lawn, our powerful petrol mower was deemed unsuitable for use by children, probably rightly so in hindsight. Still, there was plenty of wheelbarrow emptying to do, as well as weeding and other garden chores, credit where credit is due… Just don’t mention the hay fever!

Joanne Toft November 17, 2014 at 11:02 am

I love the smell of fresh mowed grass and sit here in Minnesota with white snow and cold and dream of your green grass and lovely flower smells! Our winter has come early leaving a white and chilly world for us.

Astrid Miller November 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm

Once upon a time I had a gardening and lawn mowing business, in Brisbane. My favourite memories are those of the sweet little older people I gardened and mowed for. They would welcome me inside, out of the sweltering heat and offer me their age-old specialties of which 2 particularly still stand out; brain fritters and lemonade and milk! As a vegetarian I always took someone with me on the ‘brain fritter’ day and I simply piked the other, difficult as that was. So the sweet smell of suburban lawns is definitely tinged for me, with a good dash of doggy green. XA

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