Tuesday, September 20, 2016

September When It Comes.

September also goes.
September comes and goes so quickly.  It's races through my senses, my memories, my emotions.  It is a month that leaves a fast, clean cut: A cut that heals, but it deep and bleeds bright red.  
It heals.
It hurts, but it heals with no scars.
It comes and goes.
I barely have time to breathe air that isn't August or already October.

There's a light inside the darkened room,
A footstep on the stair.
A door that I forever close,
To leave those memories there.

So when the shadows link them,
Into an evening sun.
Well first there's summer, then I'll let you in.
September when it comes.

I plan to crawl outside these walls,
Close my eyes and see.
And fall into the heart and arms,
Of those who wait for me.

I think I always plan to start anew, and let September in... when it comes...  It used to be a marker of great significance when I was a teacher.  In September I was always a teacher again...  I was a teacher in September.  I would regret that summer ending, but find joy in the beginning of new learning and teaching and knowing and feeling.  That's what teaching is. It is all those things.

I mourn not being a teacher in September.  Every September...  I wish I were starting with new students and new ideas and a new year: I feel that loss inside me... In September.

And then, when my babies were old enough, it marked them going away, each day, into a new school year, which is difficult. I get used to it.  But September is the hardest month.  It forces me to see that my children are growing up, that life is moving on, and we are all getting older...  Older.  

I cannot move a mountain now
I can no longer run.
I cannot be who I was then
In a way, I never was.
I watch the clouds go sailing
I watch the clock and sun.

Time marches on, yeah?  Cliche.  But that's what it does... Tick, tick, tick... Head down!  Forward March... and we hear the cadence of time... whether our head is laying on the shoulder of our grandfather, or resting on a pillow, when we are alone.  
I'm alone.  
I'm alone because I am not teaching.  
I am alone every day.  I lay my head on my pillow, and stare out the window, and think of being a little girl.  I think about my babies, (well), being babies, and not fourth graders.  I think about them resting their heads in my arms.  I wonder if  my head will ever feel safe on a shoulder another September.  Have my Septembers marched along, and somehow I didn't keep up?  
Damn it.  
I should try to run... to catch up...

Oh, I watch myself, depending on,
September when it comes.
So when the shadows link them,
And burn away the clouds.

They will fly me, like an angel,
To a place where I can rest.
When this begins, I'll let you know,
September when it comes.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Warm Ginger and Coconuts.


Of the five, olfaction has given me the least amount of trouble...  (I mean, until I was pregnant with the twins, and then it was like, crazy-town, I-can't-eat-with-that-woman-sitting-next-to-me-wearing-that-noxious-perfume-Can't-you-smell-it-?-can-we change-tables-?-OMG-I-can't-sleep-with-this-dog-smell-in-this-room!-We-have-to-remove-this-old-carpet-immediately-or-I-will-suffocate-in-this-freaking-bed-one-night-I-know-it's-12:30 am-but-please-move-our-bed-into-the-living-room-or-I-will-die...  That passed as soon as the babies were born:  No more sensitive nose.  Poor Sam.  Oh, my poor Sam.  [He installed new flooring in our bedroom in one day].  That was the worst of my pregnancy/hormonal symptoms at the time.  I promise.  I was a lovely, low-maintenance pregnant wife...  Really!).

I mean, I barely remembered those sensations, and think of that time... becoming a mother, in the most sentimental of ways:  The smell of the tops of my babies' heads, when I brushed my lips over them, the smells of their clean baby skin, and their sweet, mommy-milk breath.  Oh, gosh... I could go on.  I can smell my newborn twins in my arms right now.  I can smell them at 6 months:  apricots, and rice cereal, and bananas, which they'd get all over themselves when I fed them.  Oh! My babies... Dreft detergent, Aveeno baby shampoo, natural lavender baby powder...  Pure happiness in those smells.  

I can bring a scent to mind, better than I can remember a feeling, or visual, or sound...  

Ah, but isn't it the hardest to put into words?  Don't smells live in our memories, and belong just to us... almost... because all people smell things differently.  We even each have our own distinct smell.  We smell a certain way that makes us who we are.  Sam said he knew he was crazy about me as soon as he smelled the skin of my neck... my skin.  He said it was intoxicating.  It was like a drug to him, and he became addicted.  I'm not talking about my perfume or shampoo... it was me.  My smell.  

That's something everyone should know, as they navigate the world for a companion:

"Smell is extremely important when it comes to attraction between two people. Research has shown that our body odour, produced by the genes which make up our immune system, can help us     subconsciously choose our partners.  Kissing is thought by some scientists to have developed from sniffing; that first kiss being essentially a primal behaviour during which we smell and taste our partner to decide if they are a match" (http://www.fifthsense.org.uk/psychology-and-smell/).

(If you look it up, there is science behind this stuff I am telling you.  But... Then, also, I'm obviously very smart, so you can listen to me and not look it up).   

Scent is one thing I can always link to good memories...  
Smells lock into my brain.  
The scent of an important moment is never forgotten.  

Gees, and for goodness sake, the other five senses have offered many difficulties and annoyances throughout my life.  I mean, visuals can lead to actual illness, touch and taste might just be a feeling of neutrality and numbness.  Don't get me wrong, old, rancid trash, skunks, sour milk... those things are not fun times for me.  Yet in my life experience so far, seeing, feeling, or hearing "gross" "stuff", elicits a much more visceral, negative response.  For example:

1.  I have visuals, and can have a physical reaction to specific patterns and images, particularly a repetitive honeycomb... oh, gosh, just writing it makes me see it... it's repetitive, symmetrical holes, or...  AAAAAAAaaaaaaa!  I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.  I'm a freak, I know. 

2.  Oh, and I'm a complete Misophonian.  My brother can tell you how fun it was growing up with a sister who constantly said, "Stop chewing with your mouth open!"  "Stop scraping your teeth on fork!" "Oh, no!  Not slurping!"  Yeah, I was that kid, and trust me, I didn't get over it. Now, it's even worse at times, particularly when I am PMDD.  Sounds can either startle or disgust me far more than they should.  (I love music, though.  Music can have a significant effect on my mood).

3.  Taste doesn't bring me pleasure or pain.  I have always been open to trying new foods and new tastes, but most of the time, I don't care what I eat.  I don't take great pleasure in eating... anything...  Often, I even wish that there was a single supplement I could swallow to get my daily nutrition, so I would not have to even bother with eating.  I'm just not a person who has an affinity for any particular taste.  

4.   Touch.  Geeeeeeeees.  I don't like that I'm this way...  I don't like to be completely vexed by any clothes touching my body, wishing I could just wear nothing at all.  I hate how sensitive I can be to touch...  Just things touching me! Real or perceived!  I go through stages where I cringe and pull away when something or someone even brushes against me.  Aaaaaaa!
Oh, or I scratch at my body, (my scalp mostly).    I feel so darn itchy when I am Luteal for no reason at all!   And I don't want to feel tickled or itchy or... gosh... Half the time I actually feel numb to pleasurable, physical feelings.  (Pleasure starts in our minds, I think, and I'm all messed up in there, aren't I?).  Ugh.

Anyway, through it all, it seems that smells can reach parts of my brain that other senses can not.  A scent that reminds me of something or someone,  (when I'm breathing it in), transports me to another time or place.  A smell can make me feel safe, happy, nostalgic, sad...  

Scent can bring me to lovely places:
Old Spice, cedar-I'm hugging my grampy.  
Hmmmm... Gosh...  This isn't one that naturally occurs...  It's just that baby smell... Your own babies' smells... so lovely and intoxicating-I'm holding my little newborn babies. 
Cooked onions and noodles and squash and browned beef -I am eating dinner with my great grandparents. Leather:  I'm saddling up Calla for my riding lesson, or I'm driving our '68 Mustang with my friend Heather. 
The sea, suntan lotion-I am standing on the beach with my family. 
Chlorine, sun dried towels (with rusted iron, mixed with the smell of dryer sheet seasonally stored cotton)-I am swimming in my Nanny and Grampy's pool...

Smelling... Aaaaa...  I'm in a place where I was happy.  
I am with someone who made me feel good.  

Scientifically, scent is often said to be linked to memories, more than any other sense:

"The sense of smell is closely linked with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; the scent of an orchard in blossom conjuring up recollections of a childhood picnic, for example. This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience. Marcel Proust, in his ‘Remembrance of all Things Past’, wrote that a bite of a madeleine vividly recalled childhood memories of his aunt giving him the very same cake before going to mass on a Sunday" (http://www.fifthsense.org.uk/psychology-and-smell/).

Suddenly, or purposefully smelling something that you know is linked to a memory, also brings about a profound emotional reaction in me...  Smelling something that reminds me of love and happiness can rip me apart, but also make feel like I'm breathing pure air for the first time.  I inhale, and smile, replaying the movie of my life through my brain rapidly... so fast only I can see it...  But then I remember those people or places are in my past now, and they smell associated with them might be remembered, but it couldn't belong to me forever...  Not the real thing... I'd just have to remember.  

After my Grampy John died, I didn't go back to their home, that house, for a few months.   Nanny Top was avoiding it too.  At that time, when he was suddenly not there, she said she could never go back.  My brother and his family lived in the upstairs apartment, (where my great-grandparents once lived), and I stopped to drop off some belated Christmas gifts for their children.  They were not home.  I stood in the vestibule, leading up the steps to the second floor and turned and looked at the door which would open to the living room of my Nanny and Grampy's home.  I remember touching the doorknob, watching my fingers slowly wrap around it.  Part of me wanted it to be locked.  Part of me wanted to let my hand turn it, and have it open up into their living room.  It was unlocked.  Cold air hit me, since it was not heated above a temperature to keep the pipes from freezing.  It had always been so warm, and smelled so warm... Nanny was always cooking, and grampy was always in the chair, that directly in my line of sight, now that I had opened the door fully.  It didn't smell like anything familiar.  

I became frantic, I know.  I know I'm a bit crazy.  If you read my blog... I guess you know that too...  I started to move from room to room, trying to detect love, and memories, and safety, and my childhood.  I stumbled a bit, to his chair, and curled up on it, and pushed my face into the upholstery.  Why wasn't he there?  How could he be gone?  No!

I threw open his hallway closet.  It was a closet I only ever knew as Grampy's closet, because he kept papers, and old overcoats he never wore anymore, and his old hats in it.  He hid plastic tubs of gumdrops, and butterscotch candies, and taffy and tootsie rolls, on the top shelf.  When we were kids, he would tell us, slyly, to go to the closet and see if there was something special on the top shelf.  I remember when I could barely reach, and I would have to stand on my tiptoes and reach up, feeling for the candy with my fingertips.  I opened that closet and tried to find him there.  I couldn't smell him.  I didn't have to stand on my tiptoes, to see the top shelf.  There was an old tub of mixed candies up there.  But not him.  Not him.

I shut the door, and swung around desperately to their bedroom.  I went to his closet and tried to find him in the clothes that still hung in his closet.  He wasn't there.  I opened the drawers to his bureau, and leaned in, knowing--just knowing--he had to be there.  He had to be there!  But he was gone.  My grandfather was gone. 

I don't know why it happened so quickly.  Maybe it was the temperature of the house.   Maybe someone had already taken away the things that still smelled like him.  But I couldn't find him.  I collapsed back into his chair and cried until I knew I needed stop.  I wasn't a little girl.  And I remembered what he smelled like.  It was like Irish Spring soap, and Old Spice aftershave, and...  (God, I'm closing my eyes and breathing in deeply, now, as if it would suddenly come to me, so I could describe his essence more accurately).  He just smelled like Grampy John, you see?  And you never hugged him, like I did.  So you will never know.  

That might be the first time I knew how strongly some of my senses were tied to my emotions.  I didn't know what a comfort, an object that smelled of a loved one could bring to me.  I didn't know how important it felt to smell someone you love, when you are never going to be able to do that ever again.  It made me angry that I didn't know!  It made me angry I didn't hug him longer, the last time I saw him, and breathe him in.  I wanted someone to tell me.  I wanted to go back and fix it into my memory...  But I guess I didn't need to.  It has been a part of me for as long as I remember, remembering anything at all!  His smell never changed. And, although I'm terrified I will forget it, I know I never will.

It's sort of weird that my first memory, the earliest life image I can remember, involves scent more than sight or feeling or hearing.  I was toddler, because I was wearing just a diaper and crossover-shoulder-baby undershirt.  I was sitting on the front seat of a large green pickup truck, with my biological father.  Child Car-seats were not required at the time, 1970s-1980s.  I was just sitting on the bench seat.  Ah, what a peak in social history, because there was no care for child safety in cars, and people didn't really give a shit about the environment, either... recycling was not even a notion.  We went to the actual dump--the landfill--and we threw it out, into mountains of trash bags.  I remember that smell.  It was so acrid, I threw up all down my undershirt.  I probably cried.  I don't know.  I can't imagine I was happy about being so succumbed putridity, that I puked.  I do remember Brent pulled the shirt over my head, and threw it into the trash pile with the bags from our house.  He, and the man I only knew as the "'trash man" laughing, when it happened.  The smell, repeated or even remembered, brings about the visual memory... the physical memory.  That should be a terrible first memory, but I was too young to register it as anything at all.  I look back on it and think, "Well, that makes sense." 

I started this post with something else completely in mind.   I had just smelled something that transported me to a different time, and a feeling of nostalgia.  

But as I started to write this, (wanting to introduce the topic properly, before jumping into that specific experience), I realized I had so much more to think about and write about.  I smelled so many other memories; moments, marked by scents, that span my lifetime and filled me with love and happiness.  Beautiful memories.  And all of them... All of them are richer and deeper and more beautiful than that stupid soap.