By Przykuta (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Sweet Smell of Incense Curing

The room is currently scented by the wonderful aroma of a couple of batches of curing incense. It lightly scents the air so that the smell lingers in the nostrils, barely there, almost hiding from my senses, as if it is too shy to simply make itself known in a bold and blatant way. Yet, every time I stand up, every time I move past the bookcase where the batches hang, the strong aromas reach out to me. They sweep over me and fill my mind with memories, memories of some of the good old days.

I am transported to the days when Azrael was alive and well. My days were spent calling home to check on my two boys every chance I got. Azrael stayed home, went to his rehab appointments for his recent back injury, and studied on magick, computers and anything else that crossed his path, all while taking care of our beloved Roo, who was an only child at this point.

Those were the days when the shop was open six days a week. I spent my days creating new incense blends, rolling them up with our older tried and true blends in the times between waiting on customers. The days of flipping through the whole-seller’s magazines deciding what I should order for the shop. Should I place another order for tarot decks? They were selling well, after all. We were almost out of Magic: The Gathering starter and booster decks… definitely had to add them to a shipment. What books and magazines should go on the list this week and what could wait until end of month? Were any of our consignment people due to come in and drop off new items? Was the knife guy going to bring any more deer horn athames and bolines? Was Tony going to drop in with any new hand thrown pottery? His chalices, perfume and philter bottles were selling like hotcakes.

Every few hours, some friend or family member would stop by on their way to the grocery or while running other errands, to see if I needed anything. Azrael’s closest sister, barely his junior by about a year or so, was always in need of something, with her extremely active boys and a pre-teen daughter; she was constantly on the run to grab something for them, run them somewhere, or do something for their mom. Spiritwolf was always making store runs for the family members, too, since so many lived within walking distance of each other in this period. My parents-in-law, Spiritwolf, Az and I, all but one of Az’s four siblings, and their families, lived in the same park.

These were days when the shop kids would come by at lunch or after high school let out to check on new additions to the inventory, hang out, chat about spell work, ask questions, share info, help test out the new blends of incense to help decide which blends were good and suggest ideas for names since I was good with the scents, but sucked at the names for new blends. Everyone knew that they had been by the shop because the clinging scent of the shop would seep into their clothes I they stayed more than half an hour. I think I smelled of the shop from the day we opened it, until a week or more after it closed.

Lotus Butterfly was exceptionally good with names for blends. She was also the person who officially creeped everyone out with the finished product of her idea for a blended creation she called Sugar Coma. The incense that not only “smelled” purple, whose scent “tasted” sweet, but also the smoke for the incense also burned a light shade of lavender, which was, of course, impossible since all incense smoke is alike… but her blend managed just the same. She had a good head on her shoulders, but was far too old for her age. A hard life will do it to you. She would sit and talk and help with customers when needed. She was also a draw for teenage boys as they showed up to flirt with her, but she never noticed them other than a couple she considered as friends.

Where Lotus Butterfly went, The Crow soon followed. They were not exactly joined at the hip, but they may as well have been. They talked the same, gestured the same, could finish each other’s sentences as often as not, were best of friends in high school and still are today. Crow was well-known throughout the Southlake-Grapevine area and its surrounds, due to his unique good looks, his devil may care attitude and hand-painted “The Crow” leather jacket, from whence the name came. Though Crow has relocated to Japan for ages now, it seems, he is still the same sweet kid he always was.

Then there was Lysander, who didn’t make it to the shop as often as he made it to our house to spend time with Az. They were best buds, exploring ideas, talking over concepts, experimenting with computer stuff, reading and discussing texts, etc. When he did make it to the shop, he was always a lively addition, witty conversationalist, fun to have around, life of the shop type, and there was always a girl or three who dropped in shortly thereafter, I believe for the express purpose of flirting with him, but I could be wrong… though I seriously doubt it.

The two Chris(es) came by often and sometimes even together. They were both there the day I caught the water on fire, which is a story in itself. C.S. brought me the snow cones from the little video store in town, because the last few months of the pregnancy with Roo, I craved them more than air. C.W. was always coming by to bring me Dr. Peppers and would sit with me to keep me company until I closed up, then follow me home. His death at such a young age was a tragedy; he was such a sweet young man.

Nynda often dropped in to the shop often in those days, too. It was easiest for her since she worked across the street. She was a great bringer of treats, too. She would call across on her breaks to ask if I needed anything. Such a sweet girl, who looked even sweeter, had the boys chasing her around the shop. I thought the B-boy was going to faint every time she walked in, he was so fascinated and purportedly “in love” with her. Seemed there was always someone in love with her and fawning over her.

G and J would drop by every so often, usually whenever J would bug G to death about making the trip out as they lived a couple of cities away. Always high times when they would visit, G being so polite and well mannered, trying to blend into the wall as I he was too shy to be seen, while J was always trying to be center of attention, and usually succeeding by either volume or outrageous statements. G is still a sweet young man, to this day; J hasn’t changed a bit, not a single bit, in the past 18 years, either.

Most evenings I went home, I was trailed by a car with a shop kid or two. If I wanted to stop by and get pizzas, on the way home, I would go to the store where C. S. worked as it was closest, just up the road. Invariably I would be standing and paying for the pizza I had pre-ordered and hear a voice call out from the back “T must be here for pizza, because I smell incense!” which was so true. Everywhere I went in town, people either knew me by scent from having stopped into the store at one point or another, or they asked me about the “perfume” I was wearing.

Finally, I would make it home to my beloved hubby and my new miracle son, and to which ever shop kids had beaten me to the house that night. I do not remember there being more that a handful of nights each month, when someone was not camped out at home with us. We were always watching movies, playing Atmosfear, Balderdash, Scruples, or that movie trivia game from the 1990s that came out before Scene It, what was it called?

Often, our shop kids would bring other kids along for their visits; we met Richard, Jason, Aaron, Jim and McKenzie, who ended up becoming shop kids, too, David and Nicola, Jamie, Bonnie, April, and about 20 others whose faces I can see, but whose names escape me. Various kids just seemed to tag along after one or the other of our shop kids. Even years after we closed the shop; some of these new kids came a time or two, some became familiar features in the household after a while. Life was never boring, there were always several good conversations to be had every night, new ideas being floated around, lots of join around, tons of love and, after our twins came along when Roo was 17 months old, there were plenty of people to hug and snuggle babies who wanted it, lots of extra hands to grab bottles, stick spoons full of baby food in mouths, fetch and change diapers, kiss away boo-boos, and comfortable laps for our three sons to choose fall asleep in.

All of this rushes through as I walk past the bookcase. The happy times, the sad times, the times when we laughed uproariously, the times when someone we loved was hurt, the times when we could help with the pain and the times when we could not. Walking past the bookcase does not smell of incense to me, it smells of the past, it smells of sweet, sad memories, it smells of a previous life, long gone by.

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