Stealing Nickels and Smelling Palmolive Dish Detergent

Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town. Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years. Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once. A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth.

~Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses

Earlier today while sitting at the park with Little Miss ASIJ, before the wind and rain came, and while watching her swing so high I thought a couple of times she had touched the sky, I remembered when I used to come to this park as a teenager. On Sunday after church sometimes in the summer, me and a bunch of friends would come here and just walk around and sit and relax and enjoy the flowers and drink coke and eat potato chips. I wondered where all of them might have gotten off to in life and who might be dead and who might still be alive. And what would all of our lives be like if we had made different choices. Oh I got lost in that one and came to the same conclusion I always come to…if things had been different, if I had made different choices, I might not have Mr. ASIJ and Little Miss ASIJ in my life today. I can’t stand that thought so I always think of something else real fast. Then all of a sudden Little Miss ASIJ was beside me saying let’s go to the slides.

Walking over to the slides, I caught a scent in the air and instantly I felt Pensacola, Florida. Scents can do that to me ~ whisk me away to another place and time. I was about 8 yrs. old I think and was in the car with my Aunt E and Uncle J, Cousin R and Cousin J. I had swiped some of Cousin R’s nickels, then lied to my Aunt E about where I got them. I have never told anyone this and I don’t know why I remembered it today. There now…I said it…I stole some of my cousin’s nickels one time when I was a kid. Sure felt good to get it out. Good grief, I didn’t steal all of them – I left her some.

I try to always have a bottle of Palmolive Dish Detergent in my kitchen. If I’m missing my Mom really bad, I fill the sink full of hot sudsy Palmolive water. Just one whiff and I’m standing in my childhood home kitchen, washing dishes and laughing with Momma.

The way the air feels can do that too. Sometimes when I walk outside, the air will feel the way it did when I was in another city and I can close my eyes and just let myself go back. It’s hard to describe how air feels and sometimes its lighter than other times. Different cities have different feeling air. Even different areas of the same city might have different feeling air. It’s always very brief when this happens and I sometimes wonder how the air from one city can just happen to make an appearance in another city for only a minute or two. But always, the air goes back to feeling like its supposed to and the memories are gone.

I just read back over that last paragraph and I think I must be very weird.

But I enjoy being able to do that.

After Little Miss ASIJ got through at the slides, while walking back to our truck, I caught the scent of honeysuckles. For just a split second I was standing out behind the car in the parking lot of my Mom’s chiropractor, waiting for her appointment to be over. I was pulling the little stems out of the flowers and sucking the nectar off.

I sure do miss my Mom…and I miss being a kid.

3 thoughts on “Stealing Nickels and Smelling Palmolive Dish Detergent

  1. That was a lovely post. Scents will do that for me too. The particular smell of old motor oil will place me in the passenger’s seat of a semi truck at the age of 10 or so. I would accompany my truck driver Dad on long hauls every now and then. When I got tired, I’d crawl up into the sleeper behind the cab of the truck and fall asleep while listening to the hum of the motor and feel the vibration of the big tires on the road. One of just a few happy memories spent with my Dad.

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