Posted in food, human nature, Mothers, Nature

Hunger


I’ve been thinking about aromas.

When I was in college, the popular scent was patchouli. You could smell it in classrooms, dorms, practice rooms, the library…pretty much everywhere. I could never understand why women liked it. To me, it smelled like dirt. And not that fresh soil smell that rises into the air after a summer rain, promising the emergence of a range floral essences. No, patchouli was more on the order of earth worms to me, amassing on every pathway after a storm, making each step a challenge to avoid a nasty squish underfoot.

Dirt.

My mother wore Shalimar. It mixed with her chemistry in a way that made her smell like warm cookies—heady with vanilla and something other…exotic. Every so often, when I was out with her, I’d catch someone behind her sniffing and I’d smile, imagining them running off to a nearby bakery to nourish themselves with that fragrance, fill the need it aroused.

Cookies.

In the natural world, there are fragrances that evoke the same response.

Honeysuckle is one of them. It grew in abundance where I lived, and I used to pick the white blooms and suck the nectar from them. No one ever told me not to. I doubt I would have listened if they did. It was one of the pleasures of childhood, being lured by their scent, knowing the rewards they’d deliver.

The other is clover, which is flourishing this year.

I’m a simple person at heart, I think. Over the years I’ve sampled all forms of honey—wildflower, acacia, blueberry, orange blossom, but I keep going back to clover honey. I don’t know why, but it never occurred to me that the elusive fragrance I have caught on so many walks might be emanating from those small white and pink blossoms…

…until yesterday, when the scent was so overwhelming I had to stop and inhale—a true singer’s breath, the kind I learned to take before a long demanding phrase—and close my eyes, to draw it into my spirit as well as my lungs. When I opened them again, and looked down, I saw the grass overgrown with flowers, and picked one. And sniffed.

And I was so very hungry.

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Posted in family, Fathers, film, Mothers, movies

Sweet Nostalgia

Let’s talk about bonbons. Ice cream bonbons, to be exact.

We never had them at home when I was growing up. But when my parents took us to the movies, there was always a box to be shared in the dark, before the feature even started. Those chocolate covered frozen treats were both seductive and terrifying to me, from the moment I saw my parents leave the concession stand with them. I knew when we sat down, the box would open and one would be placed in my hands, still rock hard, along with a wad of napkins. If I put the entire bonbon in my mouth, I would be in instant agony as it adhered to every soft surface it touched. If I tried to spare myself that misery by biting off a reasonably sized piece, the chocolate shell would split, sending fragments onto my chest or lap, leaving the rest to melt in my hands.

Thus, most of my favorite childhood movie memories—South Pacific, Carousel, West Side Story, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Tom Thumb—are intertwined with those bonbons, and the sensation of puffed out cheeks, a sore tongue and upper palate, and melting sweet cream and cocoa.

As I think back, I suppose I could have declined the bonbons, asked for a different treat. But, in a strange way, that would have drained the outing of some of its excitement. Everything was large and magical then—the theater, the films, the treats; and nothing was larger or more magical than those bonbons dissolving in my mouth, and the love in the hands that shared them.

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Posted in human nature, Mothers, Politics

Uncommon

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The man in the suit was middle-aged, unremarkable.

I was walking toward the entrance of an office building.

~ ~ ~

I was raised to be well-mannered, say, please, thank you, Sir, Ma’am, at the appropriate times. It’s important to know this up front, as important as it is to know that I could also snap sweetly if the situation called for it, always with a smile.

My mother was an expert at this. As one who had an unwavering sense of herself as Somebody (and, Lord knows, she had reason to feel that way given all the challenges she’d faced and overcome), she did not tolerate disrespect from anyone, and could slice offenders to ribbons with the utterance of one word: Dear. Always with a smile on her face. Always with a stony glare.

She wasn’t the only woman of her generation who had this skill. I watched others — relatives, friends’ mothers, teachers, and more — wield the same epithet with as much precision as my mother, always with the same smile and fearsome eye.

~ ~ ~

I didn’t see the man until I reached the building’s front door. Then, suddenly, he was there, inches from me.

Because of the way I was brought up, I moved aside and opened the door for him.

I didn’t expect him to pause, except, perhaps, to say, “Thank you,” but he did. “What are you?” He sneered. “One of those feminists?”

“Just being polite, Sir.” I smiled. “Would you rather I let the door slam in your face?”

He reddened and stormed into the building alone, while I waited outside until an elevator carried him away.

~ ~ ~

I’m not in favor of ad hominem attacks or cheap shots, and will not use them, as my mother refrained from using them. She found such attacks disgusting and beneath her dignity, and, as far as I’m concerned, she was right: they accomplish nothing, prove nothing but the witlessness of the attacker. However, she would have agreed, when the commonest of courtesies are perceived as a type of political statement deserving of vocal ridicule, there is cause for a pointed retort.

Always with a smile, of course.

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