The Sweet Smell of Inspiration

Trying my hand at a different type of writing — inspired by, of all things, an errand.


I grew up in the era directly before Amazon infiltrated the lives of average Americans. (Well, it wasn’t an era, per say. It was the early to mid 90s). People actually got in their cars and went to stores when they wanted to buy things. They had no other choice.

So as a kid, I made frequent trips to The Home Depot with my garden and home improving loving parents. I became familiar with the scent of the place, a hybrid of all its hardworking, industrial, and nature based products — cans of paint, huge bags of potting soil, plumbers tape, and terra cotta pots. (Granted, I don’t know if all those individual items had particular smells — just imagine the amalgam).

I grew familiar with the layout of our local store — lumber to the left, garden to the right, and the paint department sandwiched in the front of the two middle aisles. Even then, I knew the inherent value of having a store like The Home Depot.

BUT…

I unequivocally DISLIKED The Home Depot. Mostly because of the smell.

The Home Depot Scent (THDS) embedded in me like a second skin, a layer of residue, a weird sense memory of feeling out of place. I was never able to really articulate those feelings in a concrete way, so I chalked it up to HORRIFIC BOREDOM unmatched by any other type of boredom experienced by any pre-teen EVER in the history of the world.

I wanted tennis courts, library corridors towering with books, and the movie theater — places that captured my imagination. The Home Depot did not capture my imagination. I would have rather done the following than go to The Home Depot:

  • Eaten green beans. (It was the vegetable served most often at home, and one that I hated the most).
  • Gone to the eye doctor. (This is coming from a very nearsighted and farsighted furious blinker who was self conscious about the multiple attempts at keeping my eyes open when I had to literally just keep my eyes open for that puff of air test).
  • Run four miles in a row. (I didn’t like to run but I did it when I had to. I would have done it more if it would have gotten me out of trips to The Home Depot).

I gamely tried to get out of as many Home Depot runs with my parents as possible. But I was not a skilled negotiator as a pre-teen. Sometimes mentioning the fact that I had homework outstanding did the trick.

Not always though.

So when that failed, I ran through these scripts:

Q: Can I go to the library?

A: Your mother wants to go later. (She loves to read too).

Code for: no.

Q: Can I go hit the wall? (Code for playing hitting tennis balls against the wall. I grew up playing tennis with my dad).

A: You can wait until your father has time to play.

Code for: no.

Q: Can I do chores? (Who asks to do CHORES?)

A: Why haven’t you done them yet? You can do them after we get back.

Code for: no.

Q: Can I go see a movie? You guys will be like two hours anyway. You can pick me up after. Its like, two blocks from The Home Depot.

A: No.

Also code for: no.

So off to The Home Depot we’d go.

A logo that struck horror into a younger version of me.

There was one item in particular that captured my parent’s imagination.

My parents were obsessed ground cover. I remember multiple trips for just one kind of ground cover for one particular “L” section of the backyard. (Granted, it was a tricky section). I’m not sure if it was drainage, volume, or what, but my parents really paid attention to that part of the yard.

They may have just be doing what one needed to do with ground cover, like replace it once in while because it was a living thing. I assume that drought or time or stomping on it too much meant that you had to replace it. (Not that I remember stomping on it, or even walking on it). Or maybe they just liked switching it out on a quarterly basis.

I clearly had no appreciation for green things back then.


Fast forward to present day.

I recently bought two plants over at the wonderful Folia Collective, dazzled by their unique beauty. And I faced an choice when I had to re-pot my little plant babies. I could have have purchased potting soil via Amazon. Because we now live in the EOA (Era of Amazon). But I didn’t want to wait another day. Even Amazon Prime has its limits.

So I found myself voluntarily in The Home Depot to purchase potting soil.

I braced myself for the T.H.D.S.

But I was surprised to discover that the aroma did not provoke my pre-teen visceral reaction of HORRIFIC BOREDOM.

Instead, I was weirdly energized. Seeing people push carts full of lumber, or tubing, or paint buckets…one lady was even picking up a full open faced pushy cart of flowers to plant in her backyard. (She let me cut her in line — so sweet of her). These people were home improving, running a construction business —they were making their world a better place, in whatever small or big way.

By fixing things, building things, and growing things.

Trying to find the smallest bag of potting soil, (and finally landing on six quarts of Miracle Grow), I was struck by how much I was actually enjoying myself. Picking out soil for my little plant babies.

I still want tennis courts, library corridors towering with books, and the movie theater (more specifically, to make more movies).

But I also want to enjoy watching my Calathea ornata (nicknamed Pink Planty) and Chamaecyparis (nicknamed My Christmas Tree) grow. Watching these little plants grow has been an unexpected gift. And that would have never been possible without The Home Depot.

Forgot to smile, but my sunglasses matched the sign, which is cool.

Who knew that scent of boredom in my childhood would morph into the scent of possibility as an adult — and be something that inspires my imagination.

As a token of my trip, (really as proof to my parents that I actually did this errand) I took a selfie. I don’t take many selfies, which seems to be the antithesis of everyone else my age in the EOA or EOI (Era of Instagram). I’d much rather take pictures with people, so apparently, I forgot to smile.

But I’m smiling on the inside.