Monday 23 February 2015

Sorry Mom

The human mind is a pretty wonderful thing. It is also a pretty strange thing. It is one part of our bodies that the scientists know very little about.

I always marvel at how my memories are triggered. Louise’s mom’s memories were triggered by food. She would remember a meal and that memory would help to cascade all of the memories of when she had that meal, who was at the dinner and all of the little things that happened there. My memories are often triggered by smells. There is a certain smell that a home will have that reminds me of my buddy Mike’s place when we were kids. Every now and then I will enter a home and it will have that smell which brings back memories of cool Kool-Aid on a hot summer day. Hours spent waging war with little army men on a crumpled blanket on his bedroom floor.

I still see Mike now and then, but not often and his home now doesn’t have that same smell. That is probably for the better because although I still have my army of plastic soldiers, I seriously doubt if he could produce any army at all. Even if he could, I would still kick his ass.
The smell of burning leaves always reminds me of autumn during my childhood. We would make huge piles of leaves and they would burn and smoulder for hours, filling the entire neighbourhood with low hanging clouds of light grey smoke. If the mosquitoes were especially irritating, we wouldn’t go inside; we would stand with just our heads poking out of the smoke. I didn’t say we were especially intelligent. Of course the smell of our smoke saturated clothing would bring other memories. People today aren’t allowed to burn leaves, too many people would complain I suppose. Maybe the smell of burning leaves will be replaced with the smell of diesel that the garbage trucks leave behind. Progress…

Every now and then around Chinese New Year I will catch just a hint of incense on the wind. Immediately I am transported back to Firecracker day. I guess it was Victoria Day or Canada Day, but my friends and I just called it Firecracker Day. All day we would unravel packs of firecrackers, lighting the wicks and watching them blow up. For a kid it was like having permission to use tiny sticks of dynamite. Many of those plastic soldiers suffered explosions and I doubt there was an intact ant hill in the entire metropolitan Toronto area. We would use “punk” to light the fire crackers because it would smoulder slowly and was much safer than lighting the wicks with matches. The “punk” was what I now know as incense.

Today I was making a cup of tea and a tiny drop of water splashed onto my foot. I felt a sharp pain, not too painful but just enough to trigger the memory. I flashed back to the first real sunny, warm days of spring when I would dig out a magnifying glass and go out to find something I could burn. The challenge for me was to actually start a fire, but I can’t remember ever being successful at it. I would get bored pretty fast and turn to other, more interesting things to burn. I would find an old piece of newspaper and spell my initials on it. The challenge was to keep the glass the right distance from the paper so that it would scorch evenly. Often, while burning the paper, I would burn right through the paper and burn my pants. It was that same pain that I felt when a drop of boiling water landed on my foot today. Today I won’t have the pain of my mom’s disappointed look when she saw the hole in my new pants. There was never enough money for me to ruin pants as soon as I got them.

Sorry Mom…

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