“Mummy … what’s that smell, you know, after it rains?”
Cindy looks at me with her big, brown eyes full of wonder, just a hint of a pucker on her lips to show me she’s not really sure what she’s smelling.
Now her look is one of abject horror. I’ve thrown her for a loop.
“Not literally, sweetie.”
She cocks her head in confusion.
“I don’t know, Cindy. They call it petrichor, that smell, and I suppose it smells of whatever you want it to smell and changes depending on where you are. For instance,” I point to the vast expanse of a wet Piazza San Marco where we’re standing, the illumination of which puts a sparkle in my daughter’s eyes, “can you imagine how many millions of feet have walked here?” She shakes her head. “Exactly! Neither can I, but that after-rain odour puts my imagination to work. Wondering. Creating pictures in my mind of how things might have been in days gone by. The dust of the ages so ingrained into these ancient stone slabs it comes to life in my mind, somehow, after it rains.”
I can see I’ve lost her. I redirect.
“What do you think of when you smell petrichor?”
My eight-year old thinks for a moment.
“Are you saying that petrichor can smell of whatever you want it to smell?”
“I suppose so. Of course, how it smells will depend entirely on where you are.” I don’t go into detail. She doesn’t need to know about sewers and such, yet. So I ask her a question, “When we’re at the barn what do you smell after it rains?”
The wheels turn in that pretty little head and her eyes brighten even more. I think she’s got it.
“Hay and wet dog and damp dirt and fresh mown grass and oh! … Charlie’s wet mane!!!” Cindy’s smile is as wide as this wet, ancient piazza. A recent memory of that old codger of a pony coming in soaking wet from the paddock has taught her about petrichor.
“So, when you stand here and see the beautiful lights and colours of this square and inhale Venice’s post-rain fragrance, what does it bring to mind?”
Without missing a beat she pipes, “Charlie!”
I give her a hug.
Time for gelato.
Written in response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday challenge:
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©Dorothy Chiotti, All Rights Reserved 2014