Thursday, October 09, 2003

...light the corner of my mind... 

The sense of smell is a powerful memory trigger. It's been said over and over again. The warm, round aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the air, the sharp scent of pine needles, the darkly sweet incense of hot chocolate can all bring to mind the bluff wintery morning of a snow day for those whose childhood was spent in less moderate climes then sunny Southern California.

I wonder about the memories brought forth by smells, sometimes think that such an adage doesn't apply to me. Then I jog down the stairs of a Metro Rail station whilst a MTA worker is trimming back bushes. An acrid fragrance of rosemary follows me underneath the earth, clinging to my clothes and my mind, reminding me of the plants I once tended when I lived with my ex, FG, so many years ago. My thoughts slide over to the cilantro plant we brought back from Laguna Beach on a holiday weekend outing. I recall going home during my lunch hour, back when I had a car and worked close enough to home that such things were possible. I'd stop by my cilantro plant every day, pluck off a leaf and crush it between my thumb and index finger, then brought it to my nose, inhaling its delicious, slightly soapy perfume. I could feel that perfume enter my body, prickling my entire nervous system as it refreshed me, girded me against the rest of the work day.

Near my current work place there lies a park. It's not officially a dog park, but everyday people bring their pooches to frolic and play. I stroll by it every morning and every evening, enjoying the sight of the people and their pets. Some days I see upon the lawn recent marks of mowing and grooming and I draw into myself the bouquet of freshly shorn grass, enjoying the wonderful natural, greeny scent of it. The little box of memories is opened and I see myself as a child, lying in the grass and staring at an insect or looking up at the bright spring sky, pulling at the blades that rest beside me. I try to remember where I was living at the time, but whether it was Rhode Island or Virginia eludes me. I can easily put it down to frequent moving when I was a child. Living in a new town practically every year is enough for all the years to melt together. Yet I start to wonder about the accuracy of my memories.

Many of my childhood memories are locked up. I take a crowbar to the lock, strike at it repeatedly, sparks flying up at me, but the lock never gives way. I consider the possibility that some trauma may have happened which would put such an indestructible lock on my box of memories. Or maybe it's just the passing of years that blankets most reflections with haziness and puts others in a secure padlocked safe, to be protected from prodding and poking.

Then I begin to think, maybe some of the reminiscences of my youth might be fabricated, spun out of whole cloth to replace the protected memories. I'm not sure. I know that repressed memories exist, having experienced such a phenomenon myself. I have every confidence those recollections are real. But others...

Recently it was brought to my attention that some of my memories may not be as accurate as I would like to think. For several years I was under the impression that a male friend was part of my senior prom party. I now know how that belief was generated, how it came from the off-hand comment of another friend of mine. She never specifically mentioned that my male friend was there, amongst us with the events of that night, but her reference to him in regards to someone else caused my mind to insert him into my memories of that evening, into a place he never occupied.

I throw my thoughts back to that night, filled with fun and strange adventures, and realize that I don't recall his face from that evening, don't remember his skinny teen-age figure adorned in a tuxedo, no doubt looking handsome, as all men in tuxedos are wont to do, especially the cute ones. I can bring forth the laughter of my dinner companions at my bouncing eclair, the metallic scent of the overheating radiator of my date's 1966 Cadillac Coupe de Ville, the masculine perfumes of the classmates with whom I danced, but not a true remembrance of my male friend. For some reason this saddens me a little. Not just because I recognize my memory is more faulty than I thought. I'm a little saddened because I realize, in retrospect, that having him as a participant in such an important teen-age right of passage, however fleeting, would have been pleasing to me.

And I wonder, how many other memories have been altered by a random word, a incidental sound, a desultory scent?

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Carol/Female/36-40. Lives in United States/California/Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley, speaks English. Spends 40% of daytime online. Uses a Normal (56k) connection.
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