BY LES McCARTHY
April 29, 2015
Every once in a while I am transported to another place and time. No, it’s not magic nor am I being beamed up by aliens—it’s just a blast to the past via a whiff of something in the air.
I have a good nose. Not in the Romanesque way or a rhinoplasty “after” photo…but I have an overly sensitive olfactory system. My kids used to call me The Bloodhound—I could figure out where they’d been and what they’d been doing by just sniffing them! (That came in quite handy when they were teenagers!) I can sniff out just about anything—but mostly just memories.
I have been on this gorgeous island now for ten months and I have to admit I am still discovering new places and shops to explore and enjoy. It’s fascinating to me that an island with so few towns has so much to offer! There is always so much to see and do that I’m usually so busy in the present that my mind doesn’t wander too much in the past.
However, the other day I stepped into a shop in town and some scent wafted my way; instantly I was no longer “here and now” but transported back to some time in my childhood—standing in a tiny grocery store with a worn wooden floor and the dusty, musty smell of wooden crates mingled with the scents of heaped green goods and roasting chicken. I wanted to linger but, with my next step, I was back to the present.
But that fleeting memory, that nano-second of time travel, had me reminiscing for most of the afternoon—trying to pull from the cobwebbed archives of my brain certain things that once were everyday delights that now seem like from another lifetime, if not from another planet.
Waxing nostalgic…that’s where I was all afternoon.
My journey into the past made me realize how quickly times change. My dad played with firecrackers and sticks. He thought his first football was a large nut! My kids’ Ninja Turtles, My Little Ponies and neon Super Soakers replaced the toys and means by which I whittled away the hours of my youth. It made me want to play Roly Poly or find a stone with which to play Hopscotch. The mere thought of chalking off the hopscotch “game board” on the sidewalk took me “back.” Way back!
We were a creative lot back then…no hand-held battery operated devices or phones or mini-computers or nano-pets to gobble up our precious time! We were unplugged in so many ways! The neighborhood was our playground and we were free-range and “care-free” and the only stops in our days were for lunch and dinner. We made crafts and rode our bikes and read.
My summertime days were spent at the local pool or up in the large silver maple in the front yard. Hidden in that cool, leafy aerie, I read every book I came across. Nothing like being in a shade tree or cool, crystal water on a hot Midwestern afternoon! Summer evenings were spent catching fireflies or playing outside until the last robins peeped their goodnights; bath time coincided with the street lights coming on.
Memories flooded out of me as if some rusted-shut gate had been pried loose and flung open. I remembered riding our bikes down to “the prairie” with butterfly nets in hand—chasing butterflies in the field and hunting tadpoles and crayfish in the pond. My brother, a budding herpetologist and lepidopterist at the time, did his fair share of weeding out the unsuspecting.
We clipped playing cards to our bike spokes with clothespins…and the click-click-tick-tick sound still resonates in my ears.
We roller skated for hours just going down the slightly inclined front sidewalk—only to walk up again. And again! Half the time we were reclamping our skates onto our gym shoes or trying to find the skate key!
And, every store had a dazzling array of penny candy—that actually cost a penny! Hot dog gum, root beer barrels, butterscotch rounds, bubble gum cigars. Candy cigarettes, wax bottles filled with mystery liquid, small boxes of snaps or Oh Henry! bars might have been three cents or a whole nickel! For a measly seven cents you could sate any sweet tooth!
And yet, from the depths of my reminiscing, I realized that not only are those Good Old Days different for each of us depending on how, where and when we lived—but more importantly those Good Old Days are now. What we do now will become the Good Old Days of tomorrow.
It made me want to do and explore more and make more memories for later! It made me think that time is precious and we need to preserve for our children and their children not only what was special to us as we have gone along life’s journey (way back when) but our lives now, as well. I want my kids and future grandchildren to have snippets of our family’s childhoods, collections of preserved memories—a small fogged-up window that allows them to look back in time when we are no longer here. I want them to remember. I want them to sniff out the past some day and wax nostalgic.
My folks are visiting for the first time next week. We’ll do the tourist things—drive up island and see Deception Pass, zip down to Ebey’s Landing, grab pie at Greenbank Farm, maybe pet a llama. And on our travels, I’ll make sure we stop in at the Honey Bear shop in Coupeville, with all their toys and trinkets and hard-to-find candies, and get a good dose of “yesteryear.”
While there, I’ll let the nostalgia wash over us and I’ll pick up some wax lips or Necco wafers and we’ll make new memories as we share our walks down our respective memory lanes.
Les McCarthy is an author, entrepreneur and IPPY bronze medalist for her yearly “Healthy Living ~ Healthy Life: 365 Days of Nutrition & Health for the Family” calendars. She is still somewhat new to the island and the NW and loves every bit of it. She joyfully tends to her geriatric fur factory and is happy the slugs are back!
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