The Smell of Old Leather, the Scent of Cigars

Memorable writing that sparks imagination. Lean in. Hear the writer’s voice on the page.

The Smell of Old Leather, the Scent of Cigars

Karen FitzGerald

Every so often Georgia would pull out that tin cigar box her Gramps gave her some 75 years ago. Imagine—75 years she’d been hauling that old tin box around, moving it from the family homestead to her college dorm, to that sweet pensione in Italy in her 20’s, to the little garden apartment when she and Gitulio married. Good gosh! And how many other moves in her 85 years had there been?

But, here she was, in Happy Valley Seniors’ Residence with her tin box from Gramps, about to open it for possibly the last time in her life; open it to retrieve the cherished item inside her very first diary.

Her arthritic hands wrestled with the lid of the container while a thought crossed her weary mind. Surprisingly tight this lid on such a worn-out tin. But it did finally give way to the beaten and battered, leather bound book within.

The gold, etched letters in beautiful cursive writing that spelled out the word “Diary” were pretty much all worn off, but that did not distill the thrill, the wave of emotion that swept over her as she ran her hand across the cover. And that precious lock of gold—OK, only tin, really, but to the ten-year-old Georgia, it was pure gold that lock, and she still had the key! Imagine. And the entire contraption worked! The key and lock and binding all in order, as were the words on the pages that she hastily, excitedly scribbled out 75 years ago.

Not even the urgent screams of sirens penetrated her tender thoughts in lifting the book from the cigar box. Do I smell cigars? The smell of leather? Really? After all these years?

She inhaled deeply, took it all in—the smell drifting through her memories. She thumbed through the first pages of her first diary, the first words of her very first, private thoughts. 

When the firemen broke down the door, the smell of gas was overwhelming. There they found an old woman sitting, peacefully, head down, chin to chest, a soft smile on her face, a worn-out book in her hand.

* A wonk is a person who takes an enthusiastic or excessive interest in the specialized details of a particular subject or field, immersing oneself in the subject matter.

Karen FitzGerald, founder of Think I.N.C. (Thinking Innovation, Not Consulting), professional trouble-shooters in business and organizational management, is transitioning from business management wonk to full time writer.

Karen is a prior board member for a variety of organizations: The Sonoma County Public Library Foundation, National Women’s History Project, Living Room Center (a day shelter for homeless women and women with children). She is a Finance Committee Member for Interfaith Shelter Network.

Karen recently dusted off her M.A. in English which she achieved with a Master’s Thesis on language centered theories of human behavior (1994).

Over the last several decades, Karen has been rejected by obscure presses and prestigious publishing houses alike. Ever the optimist, except when not, she moves forward, undaunted, with pen, dictionary, and a sizable inventory of Wite-Out correction fluid in stock.

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