Some people say their grandfathers smelled like Old Spice or cigars, but mine always smelled like dendrobium orchids.
Families have their traditions and ours was that my grandfather handled toy construction. At Christmas time, after the children had opened the presents and all the adults went back to cocktail hour, Grandpa would sit on the floor for hours constructing Barbie's dream house, my Little Pony's Pen, or Annie's Daddy Warbuck's Mansion. He never read the directions, since "you could get the gist from the picture on the box" and there were always a few pieces left over. Sometimes duct tape was employed and sometimes an extra screw or super glue from the workshop had to be used, but in the end our new Christmas toys emerged structurally sound. (For the most part.)
But there was one place where my grandfather's rough hands moved delicately with precision and purpose. A little greenhouse off the detached garage at the back of their yard. And his specialty? Dendrobium Orchids.
Spying on tip toe, I would watch my Grandpa work through the fogged windows of his greenhouse. With a surprising tenderness, he would carefully wind the orchid stalks with twine to ensure the bloom laden heads wouldn't break. He would stand in there for hours, gently misting each stem, adjusting the light, tending each root and every petal.
Later, when he would return to the house, I would curl up in his arms as he watched the evening news. In those moments he smelled exotic - a mixture of raspberry, hyacinth, vanilla, honey, and chocolate. The scent almost indescribable but warm, sweet, and enveloping - like my grandfather.