Among my most cherished holiday memories is a sense of smell

Reflecting on the sweet smell of fudge and the fresh scent of a Christmas tree

Christine Scheer avatar

by Christine Scheer |

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The warm and comforting scents of Christmas infuse my memories. Yes, these smells are only memories since Parkinson’s disease snuck into my life and took away my sense of smell, like the Grinch that stole Christmas. It can’t take away my memories, though.

One of my favorites goes back to when I was very young and my mother would wait until all three kids were in bed and presumably asleep before she made fudge. She did this only once a year during the week before Christmas, and each time the sweet smell of sugar and butter would wake me up. I’d wander into the kitchen to see if she needed a taste tester. My brother and sister would usually be there as well.

It wasn’t always fudge she was making, though. Sometimes it was shortbread, and other times it was fruitcake. It all blends in my mind into one glorious scent.

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It was always my dad’s job to buy the Christmas tree. He’d take me with him (I bet my mother made fudge while we were out), and then we’d go to a tree lot and pick out what was invariably the most unbalanced tree there.

Crooked trunk? Check. Missing branches? Check. Too short/tall? Check.

I was a nearsighted child, and my dad’s night vision was terrible, so I’ve often wondered about the wisdom of the two of us picking out a tree. Regardless, I looked forward to it. You can’t beat the scent of a real Christmas tree.

These days, our daughters go with their partners to cut down a tree on our property. Now, that tree is superfresh. I know it smells delightful, even though I can’t smell it. But I have that distant memory of what it should smell like.

Once, when my daughters were much younger, I had the fantastic idea that all the tree decorations would be edible. This great idea was before my Parkinson’s diagnosis, when I had boundless energy and a steady hand.

I made dozens and dozens of gingerbread cookies, which we spent hours decorating. Hours and hours. We also strung popcorn and cranberries into a garland until my daughters’ fingers were practically bleeding and they begged me to stop.

By the time we’d finished, I felt like I’d turned them into child laborers. The tree, however, was gorgeous and delicious. It was worth the effort, right, girls?

Nowadays, decorating our tree is a random, chaotic event. I love it this way — no pressure for perfection, just our favorite decorations and fond memories around them.

And Parkinson’s — that old Grinch — will not return my sense of smell. He’s dropped off a few gifts for me that I don’t like and is also trying hard to take my balance and my voice. However, he’ll have to fight me for them because I have boxing workouts on my Christmas list!

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Ed Sumpter avatar

Ed Sumpter

Thank you for the nice article.. Every once in a while a strong odor breaks through and i enjoy no matter what it is.
Hang in there and good luck to you..


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