My family and I returned from a week on the beach last Saturday, sandy and a little sad to have to head back to our normal day-to-day. But for me there is a particular magic to returning to our little house after a while away. Oddly, it’s all about smell.

Scents can take you to personal and specific places. Freshly-mowed grass, chocolate chip cookies, rain on warm cement –  the aroma of each can mean specific and different things to every person.

We reside in a modest but well-maintained bungalow full of hardwood floors and when the heating and air systems are shut down for a few days and no one is around to stir the air, there is a scent of hardwood and wax that hangs. It is a strange thing to get sentimental about, but it will always remind me of discovering this little place – a house that has become a home, a private refuge and a paradise for me, my wife and our kids.

The first time I heard about this house I was in a middle school gymnasium helping conduct a career day for 6th graders. My wife called my phone and left a message as she wandered on a realtor-approved, self-guided tour through the place. The voicemail was full of echoes from the empty surroundings and excitement as my wife talked loud and fast about how she’d found the perfect new spot for us. She insisted I make time as soon as I could to stop by, find the hidden key and see for myself.

I remember it was pouring rain that day. I found my way down a small, hidden road to the address, my windshield wipers working overtime. I fumbled with the lockbox on the back porch, unsheathed the key and jarred the lock. And there was that smell…

Most days now, the house just smells lived in. A lot has happened in the last seven and a half years.

Since that day I stumbled through the back door rain-soaked, a second kid was born and learned to walk (and we creatively made a third bedroom in the basement.) His big sister started to talk and read and conquer half of elementary school. We’ve celebrated dozens of birthdays between us all. There have been broken bones, job changes, dinner parties, game nights.

Any given evening the air is full of different scents now: apple shampoo, dirty clothes, onions and ground beef; pasta sauce, popcorn, wine; a warm computer; a heat press.

And in this right context, those are the greatest smells in the world.

But for just a moment – a short, brief snapshot of time – as I carried in tired kids and suitcases last weekend, it was easy to get swept away in re-smelling the moment I discovered the place where I would fall in love over and over again with life and the people I am living it with.

They say to “wake up and smell the roses” – but some days all it takes are the floors.

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