Elementary school. Third grade. Mrs. Brown enters the classroom bearing a stack of freshly mimeographed worksheets – the kind with purple ink. The entire class of twenty-five students twitters excitedly, wondering who will be the lucky one to receive the stack first.
Mrs. Brown splits the stack into two piles, gives half to the first student in the first row by the door, then walks to the other end of the classroom and hands the second half to the student sitting at the front of the last row nearest the windows.
And then the Ritual begins:
Small hands reach up eagerly to grasp papers still moist with purple mimeograph ink, then sniff the fumes in rapturous ecstasy.
Knowing the aroma lasts only as long as the ink is still moist, those in the back seats plead with those in front not to linger too long before passing back the papers. “Hurry up!” they whine.
Many years later, I got a job teaching in a rural school district outside of Houston, Texas. They were a little behind the times and did not yet have a photo copier, but they did have a mimeograph machine. The first time I used it, I ran off a pile of worksheets for my students. I stood there, staring at the moist, purple stack of papers in my hands. I looked around to make sure I was alone, then I raised the stack to my nose and inhaled deeply.
And it smelled just as good as it did those many years ago.