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Memories of Mother

Memories of Mother

In memory of my mother, Nancy Sutcliffe, who passed away in early February 2016 from dementia-related causes, I want to share some of my best, heart-felt  memories of her with you: From Hawaii to Arkansas: My mother was a strong-willed-inside and soft-spoken-outside tiny 5' lady of Japanese American decent who was raised on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was one of a few fortunate Japanese Americans to not have been put into an internment camp during WWII, but were carefully watched anyway, as I vividly recall seeing an old black and white photo of her with a soldier standing nearby. Regardless of my claims, my mother was fiercely proud to be American and never admitted to being treated as an outsider. After the war, she travelled to Chicago, where she met my father, and gave birth to my older sister, brother and I.  My family eventually moved "out of the rat race" to St. Louis, and then to Eureka Springs, Arkansas where my paternal grandparents had retired. The family homestead included several acres of lush green pastures and woodlands, and so my father was determined to use this land to become a farmer while earning a meager living as a schoolteacher. We raised goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs, grew a garden and picked apples, pears and peaches from our trees to "live off the land".  Life was hard on the farm, but it taught me a lot about nature, animal life and about sacrifices my mother made in her life in order to devote herself to nurture and care for her family. When mom aged and had to go into an Assisted Living Community, she refused my offer to come live in Connecticut with me and my husband saying: "Arkansas is my home."  She was always loyal. Church, Farm, and Home: I had two pairs of shoes growing up: One for farming and one for school, but my mother let us purchase a new pair of shoes each spring for Easter Sunday and special occasions. I looked forward to that time when I could open and smell the freshly printed pages of Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward to select my new shoes!  We went to church almost every Sunday, and I loved being able to put on a pretty dress that my mother would often make, wear my new shoes and get treated to fruit punch and cake in the hall afterwards. My mother often sewed our dress clothes on her black metal Singer Sewing Machine and I would stand next to her and watch as her hands guided the fabric for stitching, while smelling the warmth and inimitable odor of the machine's engine while it its needle worked with the pressure of her foot of the peddle. Our home was small and simply furnished, and like many homes our lives were spent mostly in the kitchen which was the hub of most activities, and where the smell of my mother's coffee percolating became our alarm clock each morning. The aroma of coffee meant that it was the start of another day and time to get dressed, then go to the barn and tend to our selected chores of milking goats, feeding the pigs, rabbits and chickens and collecting eggs. My siblings and I would often argue about what chores we had to do, and so it was my mother who was the referee, the coach and the judge on who was to do what. Barns have bad odors and I was particularly happy to leave them behind when I left the farm for New York to search for a career in fashion. Although those odors were left behind, they are immediately recalled whenever I take road trips to the countryside, and can usually decipher whether I am passing a pig, chicken, or cattle farm just by its smell. My mother made all meals and desserts in our kitchen from scratch. We seldom used anything that came in a box or a can, unless it was winter time and all of our frozen vegetables or stock of preserved fruits were consumed. Planting season came when father turned the soil and we'd go and plant seeds in allocated plots of almost every vegetable imaginable. Summertime meant going out to weed nuisances like alfalfa grass that choked the young growing vegetable plants, so pulling i...

Holiday Traditions And Its Scent Memories

Holiday Traditions And Its Scent Memories

The holidays are a time when we often reflect on the past year with hopes of going forward with good health and happiness. We anxiously await to participate in traditions that have been the glue to keep families together.  It was my mother who instilled tradition in my family by organizing all the tasks needed before and after the festive dinner when she'd take out our china she and my father received on their wedding day.   Growing up on a small farm in rural America was scent memory filled  during the Christmas season: It started with a trip to the woods with my father to help select the right Christmas tree to bring back to our little farm house.  The scent of pine or fir would fill the air as he sawed a straight edge at the tree's stem for balance in the stand before my siblings and I adorned it with ornaments that included peppermint sticks and strings of popcorn (both slowly disappeared over the days).  Christmas Eve always meant a visit to my grandmother's house for fruitcake and cups of her spiked eggnog sprinkled with cinnamon and nutmeg on top. Before bed, my mother would leave ginger man cookies "for Santa" while we all lay in bed thinking about what was in those gifts until we finally went to sleep. When morning arrived, we scrambled for the tree always ripping open the biggest box first before  the reality of our daily farm chores separated us from our joy of gifts. The barn--that dirty, smelly place of goats, chickens and pigs! Breakfast was a feast in itself as my father believed in big ones:  Crisp smell of bacon, eggs or pancakes with maple syrup, toast and the smell of my mother's coffee.   As I've entered this holiday season, I reflect on my childhood memories and of my mother who helped form them. It's those simple pleasures in life that remain the most treasured.  My message to you is to encourage you to spend time with loved ones who have instilled family traditions in our lives, and to try and recall every little aroma that connects to them during those precious times.