Childhood memories: “Ah, the familiar smell of… burning trash”

Most people have pleasant smell memories of their childhood. The smell of baked goods, fabric softener, soups and stews. Well, not in our family. My most vivid smell memories include smelling brewed deer antler herbal medicine brewing when getting off the bus (and gagging) or the smell of “fresh” cooked Sapparo Ramen (with the obligatory two eggs) boiling in the copper pot in the morning (every morning). Or the distinctive smell of wet leaves, rain, and… trash burning in the fall.

This morning I woke up in a confused state. “Wait, I smell something – is there a fire in my building? Is there a fire outside? This smells really really familiar. Wait a second, I KNOW this smell. Someone is burning trash.”

I got ready and left for work and as I stepped outside my apartment, voila!

I knew it!!! I knew something smelled familiar. Lest you think I’m crazy… my family (and more specifically our dad) spent our summer and fall weekend nights making fires in our home made fire pit and roasting potatoes, corn, and anything else that would cook. We would (at the same time) burn trash in the trash fire pit. In hindsight, I have no idea why. We didn’t grow up in a rural community. We grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. In fact, during this time we lived directly across the street from our suburb police station. The trash burning stopped however, once the police realized that the black smoke coming from behind our house was trash burning, which is illegal. Imagine, our burly dad dressed in standard Asian-man fare with black socks, shorts, and white tank undershirt, monitoring the food fire pit and the trash fire pit, my sister and I eating potatoes, and police car lights flashing. (Even at a young age I remember thinking, really, you couldn’t have just walked across the street???)

But despite the toxic nature of burning trash and its contribution to the world’s diminishing ozone layer, I still have fond memories of those summer and fall nights, standing around in the night time air, eating fire roasted potatoes and… yes, burning trash.  It’s been a real walk down memory lane, this week has been here in the ‘Stan. 🙂

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