Friday, March 31, 2006

What takes you back?

For no reason that I can pin down, I found myself mulling over those things that take me instantly back to my childhood - not just childhood memories, but small sensual experiences that recall familiar sensations from nearly forty years ago. Sights, smells, sounds ... I ended up coming up with something that has imprinted itself on each of my senses.

Sight: The sea. We live, as I did during childhood, about as far from the sea as it is possible to get anywhere in this island nation. Although it was only two and a half hours drive away, as a child to be by the sea was to be in another world. We regularly visited relatives who lived near the coast and usually took a seaside holiday every year. Oh, the excitement of watching for that first glimpse ... "The sea! I can see the sea!". Every time I catch sight of the sea I relive that old excitement.

Sound: A striking clock. In my childhood clocks that struck the hour were commonplace, particularly among older relatives. Now I rarely hear them. One particularly special striker was an antique grandfather clock belonging to my beloved great-aunt and uncle (to all practical purposes my maternal grandparents). His deep chiming through the night spelled safety and security whenever I stayed with them. Today "grandfather" belongs to my mother, and I still feel that comfortable reassurance when I hear him strike the hour.

Smell: Very mundane, I'm afraid, but ... manure! Growing up on a farm, "muck" - as it was euphemistically known - was a valuable fertiliser and launched a regular assault on our olfactory senses. Time and distance has left me with fonder memories than I probably had at the time. Whenever we are driving and find ourselves behind a "muck spreader", or pass a field where manure has recently been spread, the rest of my townie family hold their noses and demand that windows should be shut. I take deep, appreciative sniffs. Sad, but true.

Taste: When I was a very young child, the local village boasted a grocery store owned by "Uncle Joe" (a relative of indeterminate connection - probably a second or third cousin of either my grandfather or grandmother - half the village was related in those days!). Even in the 1960s this shop was a museum piece, with dry goods such as flour and sugar kept in large bins and measured out on request. Uncle Joe used to cook and slice large hams in a room behind the shop. I remember standing like a little bird with my mouth open while he dropped in tidbits of freshly cooked ham. I have had a weakness for ham ever since. (Apologies to my dear, kosher Tevye!)

Touch: The warmth of an open fire. (Does that count as touch?) The farmhouse I grew up in did not have central heating, and the living room was always heated by a coal fire. The hours I spent sitting or lying on a rug in front of the fire with a book! As an adult I have never lived in a house with a usable fireplace, and in any case open fires have become a rarity as central heating has become universal. When I do find myself somewhere with a roaring fire, I am a ten year old again :).

So ... what takes you back?


CelticMom said...

What takes me back? Hmmm... Let's see... The smell of desert burning takes me back to the time we lived in Washington state for a time when I was young... The feel of Pop-Rocks exploding in my mouth takes me back to walking down the middle of Main Street with my cousins... The sound of thunderstorms takes me back to running across the house in my nightgown to my parents' room to snuggle safely in with them... The sight of a lake takes me back to swimming with my cousins every day all summer long at my maternal grandparents' home on the lake, every summer growing up, where Grandpa had unlimited ice cream in a cooler in the garage, and time moved slower, not just for us kids, but the adults as well...

Thanks for the trip down memory lane; I'm feeling nostalgic lately, and this was lovely... Loved your trip as well...

The Bookworm said...

Thanks for sharing your memories, Shani. I'm wondering if your Pop Rocks were what we called Space Dust ... I had forgotten that!

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