Someone once told me, “You know you’re half-woman, half-boy and half-hound dog."
I laughed, thinking, “Well, he got the last part right."
It prompted me to recall a strange but funny little game we used to play when I was a kid. I had this odd card trick that my father called “uncanny." It required only the nose of a hound dog, which I didn’t think was so special, but this card trick got my family’s attention and that, like a strong smell, was a powerful thing.
My trick was always part of the evening entertainment during our summers at the beach. After we cleared the dinner table, my father would light up a cigar, his eyes squinting through the smoke like Clint Eastwood, and say, “Katiebelle, go get those cards." Delighted, I’d dash off, quickly returning with a deck of cards soft and stale from salt air.
After shuffling the deck, I’d deal out three cards and close my eyes. Then a family member would lightly touch a card. After someone signaled “OK,” I’d open my eyes, pick up each card and hold it to my nostrils. The deeper I inhaled, the bigger my eyes got, causing my father to burst into a hacking laughter. But as soon as my sniffing exercise was over, all laughter fell into abrupt silence.
As sure as I could be, I’d point to the card and say, “It’s this one,” (which 99.9 percent of the time it was), and my father’s once hacking laughter suddenly sounded asthmatic. When he could recover he’d swear, “It’s gotta be my after shave or somethin'.” But time and time again, whoever took turns touching a card and however delicately, my nose was dead on.
I think what they didn’t understand was that aftershave or not, perfume or no perfume, everyone has a specific smell. But the fact my family believed I had some rare sniffing ability was empowering. My father was partly right; it was his aftershave and “somethin',” and it was this combination that made him smell unique.
Daddy’s card came up smelling like cigars or Paco Rabanne, Mother’s like the satin/velvet ribbons in her hair, my brother’s (depending on which one) a baseball glove or day old socks, my sister’s like Prell shampoo...or was that Breck? I’ll have to sniff around.
Now with my “ol' sniffer,” I doubt I could perform this trick as easily today. But while I may not smell so smartly, I'm still sure when the night blooming jasmine has kicked in, when the sweet olive's come alive, or there's a gardenia within 20 feet. I smell pepper when the Cecile Brunner (sweetheart rose) is in bloom; when P. plucks one from the yard and pins it on his lapel. By evening, I'll find it by my phone or lying on top of the dresser, still putting off that faint smell of pepper.
Whether you’re half-hound dog or not, a strong schnozz is a sweet thing to have. Especially on nice occasions…when someone sends you flowers.