Scent Memory

First frost of the season. Lou, our chocolate Lab, is eager to get out in it and explore. One more swallow of steaming black coffee and I’m ready, too. All three million olfactory receptors in her nose are on high alert. We head to the woods and enjoy a fine, brisk walk as the sun shoots bright arrows into the dark forest.

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This week brings Thanksgiving, the next a visit from a beloved brother and his wife of more than forty years, the next a six-hour drive to one of the best hospital clinics in the world where my dear love and I will go for his six-month lymphoma scans plus annual physicals for us both.

Busy times. Joyful. Anxious.

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I began to set the table last night. Today there’s shopping for Thursday’s gathering. Tomorrow a visit to our local farmer’s market for sweet potatoes, yellow squash, new crop pecans and Florida oranges will complete the foraging, and I’ll be ready to cook, clean, and prepare for my favorite holiday.

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It’s my favorite for two reasons. One is that  I am lucky to have a naturally grateful heart. The idea of a day set aside for gratitude resonates with me even more than the historical connection. Secondly,  I’m relieved to be almost done with November, the month in which both of my parents died, the month when leaves fall. The desolation of the season smells like wood smoke from a light wood knot and still has power to scorch my tender heart. But I am buoyed by love in my life, and the memory of a sliver of time of childhood perfection that smells like sage, thyme, bay leaves, oranges and toasted pecans.

 

 

WordPress Daily Word Prompt: scorched

Mother: the internal editor

Within my Mississippi-born late mother’s cosmology, no person or activity was lower or more dangerous to the status quo than one she described as “filthy.” To this day, I see that word, avert my eyes and nearly blurt out, “Not me. I’m not that. I don’t do that.” Even if I sometimes am. Even if I sometimes do.

Mother knew something about sinning and way too much about shame. When she escaped the farm, first with the rough boy next door and later with the dark-skinned Choctaw-blooded man who became my father, I expect her Southern Baptist mama lacerated her with some choice words.

Years later, a solid member of the churched class again, Mother sat beside my Daddy on a polished wood pew, she in a navy and white dotted Swiss dress and pillbox hat, he in a sincere blue suit, fingernails clean as a whistle, smelling of Irish Spring.

A dust mote knew better than to settle on a table in Mother’s house. She alphabetized her spice drawer and could refold a fitted sheet to fit back into the original package. She kept the good furniture in our living room polished and largely unused, the door closed except for when the pastor came to call, much like the hushed reception areas found in funeral homes.

Mother reserved the agitated  verbal condemnation, “Filthy!”  for persons, objects or activities she perceived might contaminate her hard-won life of respectability. Dirt of any kind qualified, as did cigarettes (worse), or a paperback copy of The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins (worst of all) kept under my older sister’s bed, discovered and avidly read by yours truly until caught by you know who.

I’ve found ways to still the incessant voice of the Internal Editor known as my late mother, dead for more than 25 years. But I still wince when I hear the word, “filthy.” And, like her, I alphabetize the herbs and spices in our pantry.

Daily Word Prompt: Filthy