April 27, 2011

what sparks a memory

Last weekend, after our crazy week of house prep, we got the heck out of Dodge. It was something we actually planned with our supper club long ago but it was so perfectly timed and so effortless (as heading out for a weekend with friends should be) that it felt like a spontaneous reaction to the stress of the days before.
It might surprise you to know that, for a girl who has a hard time sitting still and not doing most of the time, when I go out to our friends cabin I am utterly delighted to do nothing. Hours spent playing cards, laying in a hammock, watching the kids run around and around the yard or pretend the picnic table is a pirate ship, lovely sweet nothingness. And good eats as well, which is always part of the game when this group gets together. Although I'll tell you the truth, I'd be happy to hang with these folks even if we were just eating cold hot dogs.

In front of the house, just across the road, is a creek that rushes and bubbles by. It's one one those bodies of water that seems cheerful, you can't help but smile just looking at it. But we never just look at it, not with five kids and a Nigella around. No, we revel in it, wade in it, spalsh in it. Cathch all sorts of beasites in it (this time it was a salamander and a brown trout).
When I was in ninth grade, my creative writing teacher gave us an assignment to compose a story that was inspired by an olfactoy memory. IT was kind of a brilliant project ebcause first we had to leard what olfactory meant and then we had to put it to use, digging into our teenaged brains for some memory that woudl serve for the story. If I remember correctly, I wrote about Seattle, and how the smell of salt water took me back to a childhood trip there. I only remember that because I described Seattle as gray and season-less and my mom thought that was kind of rude to the city of Seattle, but really, to me, gray and season-less is a compliment, my kind of place. Although I probably couldn't have told you that at the time. But ever since then I've love how a smell, or touch or sound can take you back to a place you thought you'd forgotten.
This weekend I was sitting on the rocks next to a quiet creek in Virginia, watching the kids wade knee deep in the water, with the sun prickling my skin, almost hot enough to go slather on sunscreen, and suddenly I was eight years old. My feet dangled over the side of our cabin cruiser and the Northern Idaho summer sun beat down on my shoulders as we bobbed up and down, tied to the dock while the boat was gassed up. I could almost taste the strawberries and cream flavored whistle pop that my dad bought when he went into the little floating shack to pay, could practically hear the funny whir of the outboard motor about to roar to life, newly filled and ready for a day on the lake. Maybe a trip across to the shoreline bar where I would drink a Shirley Temple while my parents had a beer, or over to the reedy inlet where we might spot a turtle or twenty, languidly sunning themselves on old logs.

ANd then, just as quickly, I was back in Virginia, because someone had a splinter and needed a kiss and someone else was wandering just a little too far upstream. I didn't mind, it was lovely to revisit that old memory, just for a few moments. It made a wonderful weekend even better.

Do you have those moments? Where some small thing sparks a memory so fiercly that you feel almost transported back to that exact spot in time?