Encountering God through the Smells of Childhood

woman cooking

In her new book, Taste and See: Experiencing the Goodness of God with Our Five Senses, Ginny Kubitz Moyer offers us a beautiful Examen that invites us to reflect on the smells of childhood.

My reflection with that Examen opened up a world of childhood memories. I remembered how I loved the smell of my mother’s cooking when I came home from school. The scent welcomed me home and let me know I was where I belonged. I also remembered holding up clean clothes to my nose, inhaling the warmth of my mother’s love. I recalled what my dad smelled like coming home from work with his distinct “office scent,” always with a lingering hint of coffee on his breath.

Each of these scents reminded me of when I first knew that I was loved, through the gestures of love that my mom and dad offered me daily: feeding me, keeping my clothes clean, and working to provide money for our family. The heart-warming smells I remembered showed me where I first encountered God as a young child—through my parents’ love.

My mind turned then to Moyer’s question: “When did you smell something that took you back to your childhood?” Instantly, I turned to the times I walked through my parents’ door after a long car trip home, this time entering their house with three children bounding in ahead of me. The smells were so similar. As I opened my parents’ door, my nose would inhale the goodness of my mom’s home-cooking. I would hear the dryer running as if it never stopped, and smell the scent of mom’s laundry detergent. Often, shortly after we arrived, my dad would come home from work, bringing that same “office scent” I knew as a child.

Even though my parents no longer lived in my childhood home, the smells in their new house I now visited remained the same. These luscious scents were often my first welcoming party as I crossed the threshold into their house after coming from another state. They beckoned me to enter the place I knew I would always belong. These smells also welcomed my children the way I was welcomed as a child, creating yet another experience of our kids encountering the goodness of God.


Today’s 31 Days with St. Ignatius reading is The Truth and Comfort in Ignatian Spirituality by Ginny Kubitz Moyer. Get daily e-mails for #31DayswithIgnatius by subscribing to the dotMagis blog.

About Becky Eldredge 120 Articles
Becky Eldredge is a writer and spiritual director in Baton Rouge, LA. The author of Busy Lives & Restless Souls, Becky holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Education from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Pastoral Studies from Loyola University New Orleans. She has her Certificate in Spiritual Direction from Spring Hill College. Becky has been involved in ministry for more than 15 years, with the majority of her work in retreat ministry and adult faith formation. While ministry is one of her passions, her greatest joy is sharing life with her husband, Chris, and her children, Brady, Abby, and Mary.

3 Comments on Encountering God through the Smells of Childhood

  1. I, too, have childhood smell memories. I think Smell is my personal, strongest sense.
    When I first read this, I was reminded of my grandmother putting my wet wool mittens on the oven door of the wood cookstove! There is something very unforgettable about the smell of wet wool,steaming up into the kitchen!
    As to fathers’ smells, perhaps because of a catalogue that specializes in obsolete items, I was reminded of Dad’s smell after using Lifebouy soap! As the catalogue states, the original deodorant soap!
    And Soap: Grandmother, she of the wet mittens, always used Cuticura AND claimed it has no odor! (I think there was something wrong with her sniffer.)
    Thanks for the Memories.

  2. Immediately I read this article about ‘smells of childhood’ I was transported back to my small self. My mother always smelled wonderful in fact when she died I took a nightdress from her home and I wore it till it fell apart. Her wonderful smell never left the nightdress. That smell brought me nearer to her for a long time after her death and helped me through a lot of tough times. God was truly present in all those times.

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