Monday, June 29, 2009

Sense memory flashbacks

Honey called this morning to say he forgot his wallet and ask if I could please bring it into work with me this morning. He doesn't work too far from my office, so he'll swing by and get it.

When I opened the drawer that held his wallet, I was struck by a sudden comfortable rush of nostalgia and timelessness. There was nothing exciting about his wallet. It's just a black leather bi-fold that's been worn a little thin around the edges. But that's exactly what gave me such comfort. It's like most other wallets he's ever owned - at least since we've been together - and almost exactly like each wallet my dad has ever owned. Non-descript, black, bi- or tri-fold and worn at the edges from the time it has spent in back, or front, pockets. A wallet like that, in my mind, belongs to a man who cherishes time spent with his family and friends and who is much beloved by those same folks.

I love the sudden rush of comfort that the familiar can bring.

My grandmother's kitchen always smelled of gas. I was probably in my 20s before I consciously considered what that odor was. I was never fond of it per se, but it pervaded the kitchen, and since the house was small, to a lesser extent, the entire house. But now, whenever I catch a whiff, I'm enveloped in contentment. And it has to be old gas with a used kitcheny smell to it. Gas in a furnace room? Nope. Gas in a new house kitchen? Pff. As if. Gas in the kitchen of the homeless shelter Honey and I used to volunteer in? Yup. The same goes for the vague scent of pine in a pre- or post-rainy sky. It's very rare, here in this part of the East Coast. But maybe once a year, right after a rain, the conditions are just right and I can smell a vague trace of pine on the air. It reminds me so much of northern New Mexico, and even of the desert southwest Texas and southeast New Mexico. The air has to be dry enough to carry it. It's so gentle, so delicate and fresh. It smells like life and renewal. (Honeysuckle has that same quality, for me.) The few times I catch that scent here, I'm at home and at peace, if even only for a few minutes.

The other day, I was eating a peach over the sink. It was particularly juicy and a droplet started making its way down my chin. I was instantly a gradschooler eating one of our backyard peaches in the sun. Back then, whole streams of peach juice would weep down my chin. I can't recall how sticky I'd get. Probably not too. I'd make short order of the peaches anyway, and as I was accustomed to drinking out of the back hose when I played outside, I'd likely wash off my chin. But it felt so good and right, even though I was a grown up, not in play clothes, in an air conditioned house, standing over a sink like some civilized stiff.

My mother in law was in town the last few days. Which meant my sister-in-law and nephews came over a few times. I have sense memories of my grandparents that I cherish: the rouge gel that Grandma colored her cheeks with, the smell of whatever cologne and hair product concotion Grandpa is part of his daily routine. I wonder what sense memories my nephews will take away from their visits with their grandparents. I wonder what sense memories I'm building now, in my adult life, that will comfort me decades from now.

6 comments:

secret agent woman said...

Smell is the only one of the 5 senses not mediated through the frontal lobe of the brain. It's much more primitive nas because of that has a tendency to bring back very powerful early memories.

mommanator said...

I'm like you with fragrances/smells, as I read this I thought of my mom's ever present Esta Lauder. and I actually like the smell of bleach. smells so clean. presently am sitting around a campfire, bet you can smell that

Virginia Gal said...

That is so interesting because just yesterday I was smelling the bottle of perfume I brought to Denmark with me and as soon as I smell that scent I am transported to my room in Copenhagen. Its a lovely feeling.

Darla D said...

For me it's eating raw greenbeans picked from the plants in the garden. Never fails to transport me back to endless warm summer days at my grandparents' house.

JoeinVegas said...

Summertime - for me it's the tar melting on the street corners, sticking to your shoes.

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