For me, sounds and smells and sensory experience are tied up so closely with my memories that I don’t know any other way of recalling my childhood. Why is that?
One of my oldest memories involves the smell of pine and wet leaves and the swooshing sound of bare feet on worn wood picnic tables from our old vacation cabin when I was of I’m-a-Little-Teapot age. There’s pictures of me in a yellow sleeper, hand cocked on one hip, crazy-person smile plastered on my face. But I remember the moment because of that earthy smell.
I remember my first communion in the second grade because of the way the smell of incense wrapped the entire aisle as we processed in; our lace veils obstructing all but a thin strip of the edge of each pew in front of us.
I remember that swirl of extra cinnamon on an elephant ear at my grade school’s fall carnival. How taking too large of a bite made the back of your throat burn and your eyes water. I remember so clearly the squish of a thin plastic bag full of water and one tiny goldfish between the fingers of my left hand… remember hefting the weight loosely while in line for The Bullet, where I nearly saw that elephant ear reappear.
I remember not so much the music, but the pure white-noise caucophony of screaming prepubescent girls at my first New Kids On The Block/Tiffany concert [don't judge. I'm pretty sure my jeans had zippers at the ankle too...]
I remember the soft murmur of the M*A*S*H theme song playing in the background when that first blue plus sign popped up telling me I was more than just late.
I remember the blissful sip of my first cup of tea after my son was born. The way the crappy hospital Earl Grey swirled and warmed my mouth after 36 hours of ice chips.
I remember the sound of a horse & carriage outside my front window being the only sound echoing in my entire world when my ex-husband walked out of the door for the first time.
I couldn’t tell you kids names, specific dates, or anything so mundane. My memory just doesn’t work like that. And it’s not often I stop to look back at these moments, but I love how they’re preserved in this sort of plasticine, crystallized clarity because of the sensory experiences surrounding them. I’m sure there’s some terrifyingly scientific reason WHY my brain works the way it does, in fractures and phrases and snapshots, rather than in whole sentences or memories; but I’m not sure I want to know what that reason is. I’m content. I just wish there was a better way to record it all…