The other night I was making dinner, as I do most nights after school. I had onions and peppers sliced, and the olive oil was heating in the pan. I leaned over to get some salt, and the smell of the heating oil was lifted straight up to mix with my indrawn breath.
Instantly, I was transported to my Nana’s kitchen, watching her heat oil to saute vegetables. With that one scent of warm, rich, golden oil, I could clearly picture my Nana. I could hear her laugh, see her petite form standing with spatula in hand. I remembered the taste of french toast with sugar when my sister and I would sleep at her house. I remembered the velvety burgundy roses in her yard, flowers that I thought for the longest time were named for her, my Nana Rose.
One breath, one scent and everything connected to Nana came flooding back to me.
Other memories are equally powerful for me, and equally evocative of every sense and emotion. The other day I saw a young Mother holding a little bitty boy in her arms. He was wearing soft blue pajamas and the sight of his little ankle showing below the sky blue cloth brought back a memory of my middle son. As clearly and sharply as if he was standing before me, I could see my little baby, barefoot in his blue pajamas. I could see his wheat gold hair just brushing his brows, his soft pink cheeks and the sweet little pout of his lips. I could feel his warm, damp, just-out-of-the-bath skin as I picked him up and held him close.
I don’t know exactly when either of these events happened, or what makes them so sharp and clear in my mind today. I don’t remember what it was about either that gave them such importance and such permanence in my life. But for some reason one small trigger, a smell, a color, the drape of cloth, triggered a flood and there I was. Reliving my past. Like a lucky version of PTSD, I guess. “Post Terrific Sensory Disorder” for those who are sentimental about a happy past.
Both memories made me feel equally happy and sad. Both left me breathless and tearful. Both left me hoping for more.
And now I wonder.
What triggers will bring my grown children back to my house, my kitchen, my arms?