“Do you know," Peter asked, "why swallows build in the eaves of houses? It is to listen to the stories.” ~ J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

10.23.2009

Scents, memories, safety, home

My neighbor's house in the early evening.

The chilly weather has moved in and it takes me back to the first of this year, this morning's white skies reminding me of Mary, of that waiting, waiting, waiting, for the end to come, for her last breath, for it to be over at last. There are still leaves on the trees right now, and there weren't then, although the tulip trees had welcomed an early spring, but the feeling is here. Is it the smell of cooler air, I wonder, or is it the darkness when I awake that reminds me so clearly? Another art exhibit she will miss, is that it? More good news I cannot share with her, gossip I know she would dearly love? Is it that Maggie has suddenly decided she cannot be away from me? All those months of staying outside have disappeared and she is inside most of the time, and for the first time in her life, she wants to be in my lap, against my side as I type - she cannot be close enough. I have waited 17 years for this, and now it scares me. She seems healthy enough, all things considered, but this new behavior is a new worry. When I put down this computer, she will crawl into my lap.

An almost-here Halloween party found the lovely, lovely Katie and I trying on masks and cat's ears and fairy wings last weekend, joking that no doubt every one in town had tried on the same masks, that no doubt it was quite unhealthy, although that didn't stop us, and the plastic smell of the masks took me back to childhood - the remembrance of the ease we had back then, no parents with us, a neighborhood teeming with kids, the streets full, the safety of it all. The scents of fall are full of childhood memories - leaves on the ground smell like the path to school through the woods - again, how safe we were! We walked that path twice a day for years, knew the ups & downs, the curves, the trees; I am suddenly reminded of Scout & Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird - a movie to rent this weekend. At home, I pass a box of scented candles - Frasier fir - and again, I am a child, Christmas tree lots everywhere, every home with a real tree, the fragrance hanging in the air. The smell of tea - nothing fancy, just Lipton, and I remember the suppers of my childhood. Every night, iced tea. I remember pouring the tea, hot off the stove, into a pitcher already holding just the right amount of sugar, the steam rising against my face. I remember in the fall, the sky would be blue outside, the neighbors' windows orange against the growing darkness, everyone home for a bit, perhaps us kids out later. Or perhaps homework - the smell of notebook paper, pencils, crayons, schoolbooks filled with math questions that seemed so important. The smell of the dictionary, the feel of those thin, thin pages.

It was safe or so it seemed. Maybe just the lack of 24 hour news - the same stories told over & over & over again - made it seem so. Perhaps 2 parents in each home made it seem so - a missing dad was rare in my neck of the woods and I can still tell you the two families dealing with that situation. I grew up in the era of duck and cover - school drills to teach us what to do in case of nuclear attack; I remember the Cuban missile crisis, my mother storing bottles of water against that nuclear possibility. We had our crises, our scares, although I don't recall any fear among my friends or I. There were also smaller dangers - I remember walking down my street one day, being approached by a young man in a car, being enticed to get in, but I'd learned to say no, and I was off to home and safety, to my mother calling the police. Home was safety, my parents were protection.

They were like those lights against the night.
Comforting, sure. Home.

4 comments:

  1. honey, you took me by the hand on this one. And oh, I'm so glad you did. you bring me into your world, and i don't want to leave. you are lovely.
    xo

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  2. I don't know how you do it. The imagery and memory and the emotion you evoke in me when I read your posts...you write like no other.

    Sometimes, like this moment...I have nothing to say. I just feel.

    Thank you
    xo

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  3. Isn't it amazing how those smells trigger the complete memory of an event? Emotions and all. How very powerful. You took me back to so many places in a few nanoseconds!

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  4. My childhood was like that, too, and my childhood was not that long ago. I think that is part of the wonder of being so young. I grew up during the Gulf War, the Yogurt Shop Murders, David Koresh, and still my world seemed secure. I think that is part of why I love Austin so much, because so much of my life there was simple and innocent. When I think of Texas (home), I remember running in the park at midnight, standing in a thunderstorm, my father's embrace, sizzling tar on the streets in summer.

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