I once told you that sound is something that gives depth to our memory. Even the tiny memories from our youngest mind can be triggered by the sound of something familiar.
For example, I was too young to remember much, but my Grandmother had a bungalow somewhere upstate when I was very small.
I have tiny pictures of this in my head that I can only link to little fragments of memory, —but if ever I hear a small single engine airplane flying in the sky, somehow, I go back to this memory I have from that time in a large field with tall grass, the grass almost golden tan in color, topped with thistles, and half-bent and moving in the direction of the wind.
I associate this with the sound and feels of summer.
I associate this with warmth and although most of the details from that time are only fragments—the sound from a small plane reminds me of then. And I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what the significance is. I suppose this is what I heard at the time. I suppose that without the sound, this memory would only be two-dimensional. But add sound and the memory has a third dimension.
I think a similar thought when I hear the sounds of cicada bugs chattering away in the trees. I associate this with my younger summers.
I think of the sound of a summer breeze, early in the morning, and me in my backyard, awake earlier than the rest of my home and sitting on the deck in my backyard at 277 Merrick Avenue.
I remember The Old Man just finished putting in a pool with a deck that went to the pool from the sliding glass doors.
I think about the telephone lines that ran along the back fence-line in the backyard and the rabbit hutch we had for my black rabbit named Thumper.
Whenever I hear a soft summer breeze and the sounds of cicadas chattering, I think of these things in such an in-depth way —and it’s beautiful too because I can almost see The Old Man as he was back then. Mom had her red hair. My brother Dave was in high school and my parents were part of the PTA.
I was in McVey Elementary School, so young and so little, and so far removed from the social cliques that would soon change my life and the way I interacted with others.
I associate sound with memory to give my memories depth. However, my sense of smell can do the same trick just as easy.
For example, whenever I smell honeysuckle bushes, which is not often, I remember a kid from the neighborhood.
I remember his backyard and how the honeysuckle bush in his yard smelled and in the spring, the smell from the budding bushes signified the upcoming season, which was summer, which meant, no more teachers, no more books —and for me, this meant I would have a small reprieve from my classroom anxieties and that my inability to understand the lessons would be on hold.
The smell reminds me of the first green when the trees would just start to come back to life; the ground thawed and it was a good time to put the winter jackets away.
Smells somehow come up and the memory hits me —and BAM, suddenly I can see a clear picture in my head.
For example, if ever and whenever I smell outdated hairspray, like say, the Aussie brand, which smells like alcohol and grapes; I trace this memory back to my teenage years. I think of girls in scrunchie socks and Keds sneakers in a bathroom, doing their hair, —and me, I was laying on the floor after drinking too much at a drinking game that ended poorly for me.
I think of a girl. I will name her Joanne. She was doing her hair in the bathroom and laughing at the fact that I was on the floor after vomiting in nearly every other room in the house.
My memory of this is as follows. Keep in mind, this memory is old and from long ago.
I was drunk, —almost blackout drunk, and there she was, Joanne, doing her hair and spraying grape smelling Aussie hairspray.
The next set of events were unintentional; however, I don’t think I felt too badly about this. While Joanne was doing her hair and laughing about me being on the floor, the smell took me over in an irreversible way that I could not stop myself. Without warning, I puked on poor Joanne’s foot—
And speaking of alcohol, I swear this must be true for everyone; no one ever forgets their first drunk and what they drank or how it smelled.
This is especially so when the drink turns wrong and the world starts to spin so fast you have to lean your hand against the wall to make it stop.
Me, up until this day, I cannot stomach the smell of Southern Comfort, Jack, Seagrams 7, cheap wine (whether it be Kanai, of the smell of the Kosher wine I stole from my friend Pete’s house) and peach wine coolers. Remember them? Remember the Bartles and Jaymes Commercials.
In my best guess, nothing reminds anyone of the 1980’s better than cologne, Drakkar Noir, Eternity for Men, Obsession by Calvin Klein, and I am sure the list can go on.
Paul Sebastian too. I remember this cologne well. Used to wear it all the time. And if I smell it, well, part of me gets sick and the other part of me remembers my wild nights in early adulthood, running around in N.Y.C. and running round in clubs like The Red Zone and Emerald City.
There is a cleaning woman that works on the second floor that wears the same perfume my Mom used to wear when I was young. The smell is strong but I don’t mind this so much. The smell reminds me of when I was a little boy and Mom and The Old Man would get dressed up to go to someplace special.
Airports have a smell too. I like that smell. I associate this with a few trips I took throughout my years.
Some smells never change and some smells remind of us of sad things. The smell of jails never change. The smell of emergency rooms in hospitals are the same. I have memories of them both.
There have been random times when I felt sad and lonely; I was on my own and believed that life couldn’t be worse, when suddenly, an aroma came by that took me back to a memory of my Old Man.
Maybe this is why I love going to the beach so much. Maybe this is why I love the smell of the ocean, And I suppose this is why I don’t mind the smell of fish bait when I fish because they all link me back to memories of The Old Man.
Be mindful of the sights and sounds and smells of the world around you. Someday, they will be useful when you need to smile.