valadilenne: (Alice: Queen of Hearts)
I know, it's a strange thing to like. But I didn't say this list was going to be anything normal or expected. But I have an abiding appreciation for humidifiers.

Now, if you have a modern humidifier, or if you've never seen a non-misting humidifier (misting humidifiers, for when you're sick, are gross. They leave white chalky residue everywhere--the kind we use is different, this is the big kind you leave in the hallway in the winter), here's a bit of demystification. Having a humidifier was a mainstay holdover from my parents' many collective years spent in Iowa, where winters were very dry and made even more so by having the heater running constantly.

The first humidifier we ever had was the old brown one with plastic panels and a felt fanbelt inside. It required the use of a bucket, several trips to the kitchen, and a healthy dose of anti-mold chemicals (which I always assumed gave the humidifier its wonderful smell [more on that later], but the scent apparently actually came from the wet fanbelt). The felt was attached to a larger plastic wheel that went around, and had a seam at the beginning where it began. The body of the box held several gallons of water, through which the felt strip would rotate, kind of like a mill's water wheel, only without the little grooves or buckets that pick up water. A real fan would blow out the moist air and life would generally be more comfortable. There was a plastic grill cover over the top, and I used to take it off to get an even bigger blast of air.

There is video footage of me as a toddler (back when I was a bouncy blonde) being obsessed with the humidifier. Running up to it, checking to see if it was on, holding my dollies over it so they could enjoy its fabulous smell, pointing out to my dad behind the camera that the humidifier was not, in fact, running... It was magic--it knew when to turn on, it had the most wonderful, enticing, watery smell that was so fresh and soothing, and it blew out cool moist air into the desert heat of an old house running on central air. For years (well into college) I enjoyed bending over our old humidifier and inhaling deeply--and this is something I've never found a replacement for. Nothing replicates that smell.

Our new humidifier is a strange beast--there's no fanbelt. It's some plastic contraption that I don't quite understand, and get this: it doesn't smell. Humidifiers are supposed to smell. Why my mother ever got rid of that relic, symbolic of almost 20 winters of deep breathing, I'll never really understand. The other one that we keep upstairs is just as bad--it has a water tank, but no fanbelt at all. Just a bunch of water and a fan that keeps pumping out wet air.

Weird, is what it is. Not unlike my fixation on those things. But I suppose it's an effect of associating a certain smell and feel with the safety and comfort and ease of childhood.

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Valadilenne

May 2009

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