The longer I live on the planet, it seems the more I forget about my childhood, and yet occasionally something springs into my brain as if it happened yesterday. Often these memories are awakened from their slumber by a word or a smell.
Last week, some honey bees decided to make a home in our porch railings. I am a bee-advocate. I know we need the bees to help us continue to live on the planet and that bees are our friends. I’ve never killed a bee and I don’t want to start now. But leaving my back door through a swarm of bees, plus not being able to confidently use the railing down the six steps, means these bees must be evicted.
So, I plugged four socks with moth balls and hung them from the railings. Supposedly, bees don’t like the smell of mothballs (who does??) and they will move their hive elsewhere. So far, they aren’t all gone, but they seem to be unhappy with the new aroma surrounding their home, as am I. Entering and leaving my house now means I walk through a haze of moth ball scent, which I am certainly never recommending to Yankee Candle.
The good news is that when I opened that box of moth balls to stuff the old socks, I was immediately transported back to my grandmother’s home in a suburb of Pittsburgh. I rarely went into her bedroom, let her alone her closet, but when I did, that odor would be present, ever so faintly. I stood on the porch, closed my eyes, and felt Grandma right behind me, asking me to come help her bake some cookies.
Scents are powerful. Years ago, Matt and I were working on the window panes in our old house, as a few of them had cracks and gouges in the wood. I had opened up the lid of the wood putty, and with one sniff, I was eleven years old again. My dad was right behind me, telling me how to apply the putty, how to work it into the cracks, and how long to wait before sanding it. I hadn’t thought about him teaching me that skill in over twenty years, yet it stormed back into my head.
My brother has started a podcast of sorts for the family, and has asked us to recall words our mom used to use that aren’t heard much. Of course, “updumped” (as in, “oh gosh, I dropped my purse and it updumped”) was the first one I thought of. But others surfaced, like “frontispiece” which my mom would use meaning the front part of my clothes, rather than the page in a book. It made me feel like mom was right here, talking to me again.
I hope to take the mothballs down in a few days, with my back steps bee-free. I also hope I can always her Grandma’s voice asking me to bake with her and Mom admonishing me to not spill flour on my frontispiece.
Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.