Suddenly I was nine years old. We only lived in that house on Westbrook Street for about a year.
I was at the kitchen table painting on a model airplane. The paint was based on the same solvent. That’s where the smell connection came from.
The model was a cartoonish Fokker Triplane, not realistic at all. Like something a cartoonish Red Baron would fly. The plastic was red, but I’d wanted a darker color. I mixed black paint with red paint, and created brown. For my model, he was going to be the Brown Baron. (A Canadian named Roy Brown was once briefly thought to have shot down Baron von Richthofen.)
The directions for building the model were in mock-German. “Put der landing gear into place mit der fheels pointing down.” I found it difficult to follow these directions. I mentioned this to my mom, and quoted from the directions, but she thought I was just reading the directions with a mock-German accent. Some time later when she actually picked up the instruction sheet she was surprised to find them written that way. I was exasperated. “That’s what I was telling you!”
I haven’t thought about being exasperated with my mom in ages. Because of solvent. As Laurie Anderson would say, “Hi, mom!”