My study smells like India. No ones else seems to smell India here, but I sure do. We’ve entered the serious pre-India prep phase, and that means all of the suitcases are sitting, ready and waiting to be filled, directly behind where I sit at my computer. (It is a tight squeeze in here!) Most of our suitcases have journeyed to India many times over, and have spent months upon months living in India… hence the India scent that surrounds me.
You might wonder what ‘India’ smells like when it shows up in my study. To be fair, I’m not talking about the vibrant scent of sizzling spices or pungent sandalwood. I’m not talking about jasmine flowers, or banana leaves, or even the unfortunate smell of a train bathroom. Rather, this is the kind of smell that you recognize when you return home from vacation. It is the smell that you actually title, Home, when you walk into your own, closed- up and quiet house after two weeks away on summer vacation. It isn’t exactly a fresh smell, but it is like an unopened bottle of Reminiscing that makes you feel like you belong to the place. The subtitles and nuances are yours. Comfort and knowledge wrap themselves in and around this scent. You know like you know, that this is a place in which you belong. Here in my study, I have captured in 5 bedraggled suitcases, the mildly musty, and absolutely dusty breath of Indian air. To be exact, within it there would have to be lingering spices- most especially curry leaf,- but there is also the exhaust of autos, and the unique smell of stainless steel pots. There is a smidge of coconut shell, an ounce of perspiration, bubbling rice, and yes, a little bit of street dog. There is a whiff of hand-cobbled shoes, a stretch of stiff silk sari and… ah yes, Sun. India is here in my study, I promise.
As if you can’t tell already, a place really gets inside of me… plus, I have a very sensitive nose. It is probably good for me to spend these next packing-filled days in the presence of Indian smells. It helps me get ready emotionally. I have a terribly difficult time with good byes. It is kind of genetic, trickling down from my mom’s dad who cried every time we said good bye, even though we only lived about an hour away. I also developed an aversion to goodbyes when my family moved a couple times during my growing up years. Goodbyes began to feel so final to me, the end of something special or significant. I much prefer continuity and long, historic relationships, but instead feel like I’m often leaving. My family had always been the sustaining grace in my phobia of goodbyes. It was my one constant. Sadly, when I married JP, I felt that constant begin to wobble because our most certain ‘long and historic’ relationships suddenly involved so many serious goodbyes.
Over the past few years, I have made a point of telling myself that each goodbye leads us to a happy hello. This has helped a quite a bit. It is a comforting truth. However, I have just realized, gratefully, that there is something more than a happy hello for me to lean on. Though we say goodbye often, and travel for lengthy chunks of time, there is nothing final about our farewells. We do have continuity in our life. This past weekend, we ate dinner with some good friends, a whole family of friends. We sat around the table with them, and I smiled thinking of how much it felt like we were part of the family. The goodbyes are so painful for me because the relationships are so beautiful, and so lasting. Wherever we go, we do have the sustaining relationships of our families, and a rich, rich congregation of friends as well. It has taken much time, and intentional effort to build these communities. It also points to good lot of people in our life who are willing to let us go, and willing to welcome us back into the fold with open arms.
My study smells like India, but oddly, it smells like Home. I’m thankful to say that while I must tear myself away from this Home that I love, I go to another sweet (and spicy) Home. This Indian scented study is all that I described above, but it is also hugs, and Namaste, and all the things of a good “Welcome home.”
Please continue to pray for us in these transitions, that the goodbyes would not be too heartbreaking, and that the hellos would be generous and graceful enough to be the healing balm that we need.