Welcome to the A to Z Challenge during the month of April
Welcome to… The Apartment Building
Do you remember walking into your parents or grandparents home during a holiday, and the smells that engulfed you as you opened the door? Close your eyes and think about that for a moment. Take it in, remember the smells that made you salivate, wanting the special meal to be ready right now instead of “sit, drink, mingle, How are you?” small talk. Take the hugs and kisses, take off the coats, and take in the aromas that drift about.
Now, imagine that smell times fourteen: the elevator doors open and you walk onto the apartment building floor. It doesn’t matter what floor you walk onto: the aromatics pounce and you breathe them in, letting the deliciousness find its way to the pleasure centers in your brain. If you were a cartoon, you’d be able to see the tendrils of this olfactory desire pick you up and float you to your destination. Your stomach would growl in anticipation, gurgles that needed to be sated, and soon.
During the first three decades of Swan Rise Apartments, the scents were a mixture of Italian, Jewish and some Irish. Everyone celebrated St. Patty’s Day: boiled cabbage left its special tang throughout the building and out onto the parking lot and street. During the other main holidays you had a bouquet, an olio of cooking meats, sauces, gravies, spices, all spilling out into the hallways, melding into a gastronomic dance.
People moved on, one way or the other, over the years, and the traditional smells seemed to decrease as the building found new salivary accompaniments: Asian, Mexican, Island, Southern and more entered the aroma grounds, replacing some, adding overall to the party.
Some say the building was haunted, and more so during the holidays.
Meredith in 5G, and her guests at her first Seder, heard the tinkling sound of dog tags by the front door. Her beloved pup, Pooh, had been gone for two years now, and she couldn’t face up to getting another dog after a fourteen year bond. She would not let anyone open the door for Elijah, cup full of wine or not.
Mrs. Clarke would feel her mother when she was baking Christmas treats, especially when she was making their favorites. She felt Mama with her, helping her mix the bowl, drop the cookies onto the baking sheet, and in all the years since her passing Mrs. Clarke turned out perfect cookie after perfect cookie…just like her mother had.
It was the small noises that creeped Mrs. Beatty out the most: the window blind’s light clanking against the pane or the glass, when there was no wind, no window open; the creaking on the ceiling (she lived on the top floor); the kitchen cabinet door that squealed when it swung open on its own; the taps, mutters, growls, scratchings, whispers, thumps…all of these things preyed upon Mrs. Beatty. She did not need a holiday to fear them, they just seemed worse to her, then.
Scott and James felt the spirits enter them on most holidays, and most weekend nights, leaving them worse for wear the mornings after.
The holidays also produced a lot of joy in the Swan Rise over the years. So many marriage proposals happened during these hectic days, or announcements were made at the family gatherings. Cheers rang out from behind many apartment doors, and the good will and sentiments spilled out around the building in the days after, passed around in the elevator rides and the laundry room gossip and waiting for the mail.
Smiles were produced on an ongoing basis as the children grew up and found themselves starting their own families. Many ended, many more stayed together, and many produced new little feet to run down the hallways.
James’ older sister, Katherine, went into labor during a holiday. Went into labor AT the Thanksgiving dinner. Little Sara did not want to wait for her father to get the car, nor for any fancy machinery or her mother’s protestations of OOohhhs and Gahhhhs and other squeals of through-gritted-teeth pain. Her grandmother had been a nurse, and that was good enough.
Sara’s grandfather said, upon seeing his newborn first granddaughter, that she looked like a small naked turkey. His wife smacked him in the arm and shooed him out of the room.
The fragrances of the many Thanksgiving dinners wafted into the apartment to greet Sara, welcoming her to a world of vast sensory caring. Sara’s parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles and aunts milled around, stirring the fragrance pot.
If they hadn’t been cooing and ahhing over Sara, they would also have heard the sound of the tinkling of a dog’s tags and the rapid swishing of a tail, all by the front door.
I apologize to all who read The Apartment Building series for being so late in posting today. MY holidays got in the way, and I found myself doing a lot more traveling than anticipated.
I hope this story makes up for it, and I’ll do my darnedest not to let this happen again.