Five Senses and “Fifty” Memories

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Have you ever had the experience where some song you hear or something you taste or something you smell brings you back to somewhere you’ve been? even if you don’t want to go there?

Yesterday I was grazing in my refrigerator. I had company over the weekend and I’d bought one of those “Panini” packages at Costco. You know, the ones that have Parma ham, mortadella and salami? ostensibly with which to make a grilled sandwich? Well, I was looking for something with protein to eat, so I grabbed a slice of the mortadella. It’s sort of a bologna with white polka dots in it. I don’t really know what makes up the white polka dots but to be honest? I really don’t want to know…and I don’t care. I took one bite and suddenly I was having breakfast in Italy. I know that sounds odd, but mortadella is a staple of breakfast there the way toast is here. A traditional breakfast in Italy consists of a variety of their specialty meats and cheeses (prosciutto, mortadella, provolone and local cheeses, etc.), some crusty bread, Nutella and coffee you can stand a spoon up in. I swear they even serve wine. Well, at least Proseco. I loved breakfast in Italy and I never felt guilty loading up my plate.  I think I loved it probably because lunch is my favorite meal in the U.S. so I could have lunch for breakfast every day and didn’t have to wait…and even saved some calories (maybe?) in the process, because technically I’d skipped breakast.

I never taste pistachio ice cream without thinking of a new car. My Dad never really bought new cars, but I remember once when he did, he took my Mom, my sister and I out to the local ice cream drive-in after he picked it up at the dealership. I had a pistachio cone, I think for the first time ever. Even now, just one lick of the sweet and nutty creamy confection and it’s a warm spring night in 1957. Every single time.

I never hear the song “I Got You Babe” without thinking of my high school sweetheart. It comes on the radio and I’m in an old Chevrolet with those “wings” on the trunk with five other teen-agers. We are on Long Island in Long Beach,  driving along the main drag, singing along with Sonny and Cher at the top of our lungs. Badly, at best, but it was one heck of a time.

I never used the liquid fabric softener; I always used dryer sheets. But when I’d go to visit my oldest daughter after she had babies and sneak in to her laundry room to fold some things for her without her catching me, the clean clothes always smelled so delicious. Consequently, the babies smelled delicious, too. When I moved to California I started buying Downy because when I did my laundry here, it made it smell like the grandchildren. Of course, it makes for a strange sight when I’m out walking and heavily inhaling the arm of my sweatshirt. It just smells like the little ones I miss. It brings a little bit of the east coast into my daily life.

There are some not-so-good triggers, too. We all have them. Can’t smell carnations; smells like a funeral home. Can’t taste or even smell Scotch Whiskey, it reminds me of a really bad night in college when I was a senior. A bunch of us went out to celebrate 100 days til graduation and I had to stop 100 times on the way home to the dorm to discharge orally what seemed to be the 100 shots I’d done (I am trying to say I threw up my guts in a nice way.)  Not a good night. We were walking, not driving, so don’t worry about that. I can’t hear Springsteen’s City of Ruins without thinking of 9/11. I doubt I’m alone on that one.

But to end on a happy note, there are three special songs that I associate with each of my kids being born. One of the reasons I like to listen to oldies stations is I hear them more often and it is a sweet shot of a very happy time. Makes me smile remembering  those once little chubby people who turned out  to be such incredible adults,  despite their mother!

What are your triggers? Please share!

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