The Smell of Memories

White Rose

I belong to a writing group and each month we meet to critique our work as well as share what we’ve written for the monthly prompt.

I came up with the prompt for July which basically calls for each of us to write about the smell of summer. That prompt spoke to me for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that over and over again science has told us that smells and memories are inextricably linked.

Even though I consider myself to be more of a fall and winter person, there are a few things about the summer months that are priceless: delicious produce selections, cooking on the barbecue, swimming, flowers and big, leafy trees are some of the best things about this hot time of year.

In addition to the things mentioned above, I can’t think about summer without associating it with my childhood, particularly the moments I spent in my grandparents’ home, especially their backyard. For whatever reason, in my mind and in my heart, the hot sweltering days of summer seemed full of wonderful events.

Their backyard had peach and apple trees for climbing. On numerous occasions I found myself plucking a sun-warmed peach right off one of the branches and enjoying the delicious fruit outside. A honeysuckle plant grew along one side of the fence. Its lush, sweet scent was a delight to my nose. I often pulled the stems out of the blossoms and relished the sweet nectar on my tongue.

Indoors, we often had big dinners as a family. My grandparents’ oak dining table was covered with serving dishes full of homemade creamed corn, juicy slices of fresh tomatoes, red potatoes, green beans (which were always bought fresh, my job was snapping off the ends) and fried pork chops. Vanilla or butter pecan ice cream was always served for dessert.

Countless times as an adult I’ve longed to go back there. Not literally to their backyard, I’ve been since I’ve grown up, and it’s no longer the same. Overgrown with weeds, the peach and apple trees cut down, the honeysuckle plant withered on the chain link fence. Gone is the magical oasis behind what was once my grandparents’ home.

As an adult I hold onto those memories and wish that somehow I could go there again. To those moments. I’d love to live them over again, as an adult. Now, I’d savor every aspect.

The popping sounds made by each green bean as I pulled them from the brown paper sack and discarded their ends. I’d inhale the heady, greasy scent of the pork chops as they sizzled in the hot grease. I’d spread a blanket under the shade of the peach tree and take in the sights, sounds and smells of their backyard.

Even though I can’t relive those memories, I do get flashes of those moments. They often play in my head like a slideshow.

When I’m making creamed corn and that moment when I add freshly cut corn to the hot cast-iron pan. When I smell the juxtaposition of the sweet corn sizzling away in bacon drippings I think about my grandma cooking the same dish. When I step out onto my patio and catch a whiff of the fragrant honeysuckle blossoms that grow below.  When I bite into my first juicy peach of the season or slice into the ruby flesh of a homegrown tomato.

In the split second that those images and memories flood my mind, I am there again. I’m wrapped in the safety of childhood. I’m struck by the wonder of ordinary events. I’m enveloped in happiness, no matter what else may be going on in my life or the world around me.

Now that I’ve shared a little about my favorite memories, won’t you tell me what smells or situations awaken memories in you? Let me know in the comments section 🙂

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