The smells of summer

E. W. Carswell: He writes about home — his home and mine.

E. W. Carswell: He writes about home — his home and mine.

THE ADVERTISER arrived in today’s mail.

Twenty-five years out of Esto and 3,000 miles away in California, I’m still always happy to get the weekly newspaper from home.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Aging breeds nostalgia. And now I better understand the complaints from people who had moved away that I used to hear when I worked at the Holmes County Advertiser as a teenager. “I never know anybody you write about anymore.” “I have to figure out who their mamas are to place them – or their grandmamas.” “The only names I know are in the obituaries.”

Then on the editorial page of this week’s issue I get to E. W. Carswell’s column. This week it’s titled “The Smells of Summer.”

It takes me immediately back home. And it reminds me it’s the little things I miss the most.

He writes: “The smell of summer is a reminder of the good things summer has made possible ­– mellowing pears, magnolia blossoms, fresh turpentine, overripe muscadines, fresh-sliced tomatoes, new-crop Southern peas or speckled butterbeans being cooked with slices of ham.”

“Summer is the smell of the old chinaberry tree after its waxy fruit had started dropping to the ground. It is the smell of fresh-sliced watermelon or cantaloupe.

“Unforgettable is the smell of peanut hay, curing in the sunshine. And freshly dug peanuts being boiled outdoors in a wood-fueled pot.”

I had read this column before. In fact, Judge and I included it in Commotion in the Magnolia Tree, the first collection of his columns we published in 1981. Maybe I even read it when it was first published in his regular column on the editorial page of The Pensacola Journal back in the ’70s. I might have read it again since the Advertiser started reprinting some of his columns a few years ago.

But it didn’t matter.

Like the smells of summer he was describing, Judge Carswell’s writing has a timeless quality about it. It has the feeling of home – his home, and my home too.

This week I recognize something familiar in the Advertiser. I recognize the smells of home.


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