Get Smart
On Display Collab, April 2000.
The Smell of Espionage
Topic: "I've always loved the smell of..."
My family used to have these huge Christmas parties at our house when I was younger, and we would invite the whole neighborhood. Christmas is the holiday that is probably most associated with smell, but every time I smell the food that was at those parties, I remember Catharine, Suzanne and our secret society.

It was Suzanne's idea, since she was 4 years older than I was, 3 years older than her sister Catharine, and 7 years older than my sister Lauren. We were the charter members of our secret society (which, to my knowledge, was never given a name).

It was based on the TV show "Get Smart" (which I had never seen and didn't see until many years later). We all had code numbers instead of names, and this presented a problem at times because my six year old sister was forever being yelled by Suzanne. "Don't call me Suzanne! It's Number 99!" And it was at these parties (practically the only time the four of us were together) that we had our annual meetings and planned out our next spying missions.

We picked a corner of my bedroom, and furtively held our meetings, shut out from all the younger children of the neighborhood and prying parents (which came up frequently to make sure we weren't up to anything we shouldn't have been). Eventually, my friend Alexis and her sister Brianna joined our secret society as well, so our ranks numbered six.

Our first (and only) project was stalking and observing my parents. They were codenamed "MR" and "DR" (for Mom Rusen and Dad Rusen) by Suzanne. They would be outside doing yard work, or inside doing some sort of chores, and we would stalk them, taking great care not to be seen, all the while reporting our movements to each other on a couple of ancient walkie-talkies. I'm sure they saw us and wondered what the hell we were up to.

I wouldn't have remembered any of this except I had audio taped all our meetings. I still have the tape, simply marked "Summer 1991", which is when our secret society was started. It's mostly full of Suzanne bossing us around, Catharine being a wiseass, and me and Lauren generally silent with awe, as we usually were around them. I've resisted throwing away that tape, as many times as I've gone through the second-from-bottom drawer of my big bureau.

I don't know exactly what happened to our secret society. I think it kind of petered out. Suzanne went to high school and became too cool for us, and then Catharine, Alexis and I decided it wasn't cool to hang out with kids in elementary school. But it's weird to see all of us now. Suzanne dropped out of college after one semester and last time I heard was clinically depressed and living at home. Catharine and Alexis are sophomores in college, and Lauren and Brianna are sophomores in high school. Now all that's left of that secret society is that little tape, sitting in the bottom of my bureau drawer.

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