Sunday, April 29, 2012
Good Smells and Bad Smells
The laundry room smells like cows. Kelly has been meeting at a local dairy farm a couple of times a week to practice for a Future Farmers of America cow judging competition. She’s been learning what constitutes good cow conformation and the difference between a Jersey cow and a Holstein. The Jerseys have feminine heads. That’s what she told me. They must be the ones I see in the children’s books with the long eyelashes and cow bells around their necks. They are usually named Elsie.
Kelly wears big rubber boots when she goes to these meetings at the dairy farms and when she comes home, she is reeking. I don’t know what they do over there—roll around in the stuff? As soon as I walked into the laundry room last night, I said, “Oh, Kelly is back.” Even though she was nowhere in sight.
It would be hard to live near a dairy farm. They really stink. One time I was on line behind a lady in Shop-Rite and I knew she lived on a dairy farm because I could smell her. I wonder if they notice it, living right there? Still, I’d rather live next to a dairy farm than where I grew up in Jersey City where the air was thick with exhaust and the sickeningly sweet smell of the purple dye factory on the highway. Or by the fish factory in Port Monmouth. But I didn’t mind living near IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) in Union Beach. When they’re running, the air smells like perfume. When I was a bartender at the Cambridge, the guys would come in and give me samples of White Diamonds and Polo in small, unmarked bottles with black plastic caps. Everybody smells good in Union Beach.
I purposely put my manure pile behind the barn so it wouldn’t bother the neighbors across the street. I don’t think they can smell it. I’ve already got someone coming to take it for his garden. I’m talking about a big garden. He’s a farmer. He came three times already and we use the tractor to scoop up the manure and dump it into the bed of his truck. It falls with a plop and overflows. If he hits a bump when he leaves, balls of manure bounce out and land in the driveway.
Someday I want to have a big garden. I’m curious to see how I do in New Jersey since the neighbors in Virginia were amazed at the bounty I had, being someone who comes from Jersey City where the exhaust is thick and the only yard was the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. One time someone planted pansies in the grass. There were little popsicle sticks in the ground that said pansies in black Magic Marker; that’s how I knew what they were.
It wasn’t my mother. My mother couldn’t keep a philodendron going. You’d give her an Easter plant and she’d leave it in the purple foil on the windowsill until it died. Mrs. Pontius on the first floor must have planted them. She wore a dress like the nuns wore only it was a color and it had a pattern on it like checks or flowers, and an apron and clunky shoes. I’d go to the store for her. I’d knock on her door and say, “Mrs. Pontius, do you need anything from the store?” She’d give me a quarter for going. I’d always refuse it but she’d insist I take it, sometimes grabbing me and shoving it into my pocket herself and then slamming the door. Secretly, I was hoping she’d make me take it.
The rich people who lived in the single families up the street had pussywillows in their yards behind wrought-iron fences. They also had statues of the Virgin Mary under cement domes painted blue and white and stone birdbaths. I’d like to get some pussywillows someday. I also like hydrangeas. And geraniums. If it’s an old timey thing, I like it. Lilacs are my favorite. But they don’t make ‘em like they used to. When we had to tear out the old lilac bushes at the Jackson house because it was the only spot to put in the new septic tank, it broke my heart and Kurt went out and got me some new lilac bushes. But they weren’t the same. They were scrubby and there was no smell.
I was surprised there were no lilac bushes here at the yellow house because it’s an old farmhouse and that’s what those ladies planted back then. Actually, I was pretty disappointed. But I was wrong. There are two of them. The other day I saw the first purple flower. At first I thought it was a bird but when I looked closer, I saw tiny clusters of lilac cones! One is in the front yard and the other is right outside the kitchen window. I imagine what it will be like soon when all the flowers are blooming and I open that window!
It’s going to smell wonderful! It’s going to smell much better around here than how the laundry room smells now.