I’ve been coming to my family’s beach house every summer since I was born. It’s a lovely, classically old-fashioned house, with old exposed wood beams and white-washed walls, a screened in porch with a swing hanging from the pale blue ceiling and a room in the front where you watch the ships and the storms come in and where, after air conditioning and, grudgingly, internet, the only real “improvement” has been the addition of the small fridge tucked into the pantry off the tiny galley kitchen to hold more wine. It’s the kind of place that feels at once incredibly special and hushed and totally broken in and comfortable. Coming into it for the first time every summer, upon opening the door it always feels like the house has been holding its breath, and woosh! It all comes rushing out with this very particular smell. This very our-old-beach-house-smell. What is it that’s so powerful about that? The heady undercurrent of the house smell is punctuated by the rush of summer exclamation points- the intoxicating-sweet of the bedside gardenia, the you-can’t-buy-it-anymore-but-it-lives-in-the-teak-drawers-here-for-forever pina-coco smell of ZERO spf tanning oil, the woodsy cedar of breeze-thin cotton blankets in the linen closets, the musky sand-and-sea smell of old surfboard wax. All of these conspire to make this smell, saved up in a summer of living, biding its time through the stormy winter, just waiting to waft out again next year. My brother once told me that he would steal one of the ancient navy towels with the birds on them from the house at the end of every summer just so he could have some of the the house smell until he came back. This year I might just try and take it with me when I leave too.
You know you are in a good place when it is time to go to sleep and someone has put a gardenia next to your bed. Just one, in the tiniest bit of water, depression glass or old fiestaware. You know it’s a marvelous confluence of events that has led you to lay your head down in a place where June is warm enough for blooms and the sheets are still cool to the touch.