Those Remembered Things
by Tony Mastro
(Bloomingdale, IL USA)
Sometimes, from out of the blue, I remember something from my past and I stop and think, “Wow! I remember so and so or this or that.” What triggered my mind was usually an odor of some kind or word or even some pictures. Of all of these, odor is probably the most vivid. I may be just walking down the street or going into some building and bam, it hits me. One of the odors I remember is the smell of dung and charcoal in the air. That’s the first smell I got of Germany in June of 1963 when I got off the boat in Bremerhaven. Back then most of the homes were burning wood and coal for heat and cooking and the farmers used dung in the fields to fertilize their plants, a custom still in use today. The wood is still used in rural towns but the coal has been phased out and oil is more in use today.
Some perfumes also trigger a remembrance of times gone by and bring them back into my mind. Whenever I smell Old Spice I think of the days when I was young when I used that aftershave lotion as a young man in the Army. Those early days were a good time in my life and it’s nice to think about them again once in a while. Another odor that brings back those days is old canvas tarps. The Army used a lot of canvas for tents and I remember that odor very well. The cigarette coffee can in the barracks, called a butt can; with its wet old cigarettes floating also comes back to me whenever I smell wet cigarettes.
I like reading books. They also have an odor that brings memories to mind of high school English class. The paper in the books always smells the same and I think of that class and Mrs. Robinson, our English teacher. The books we read were classics like Shakespeare, and “A Tale of Two Cities”. There were others but they all had a similar odor to them.
Sometimes I see a photo of some place we visited and those memories come up and I am there again, if only in my mind, but the vision is real to me and I feel great joy. Sometimes the memory can also be a sad one. When I worked for an airline in the sixties we daily had a number of military coffins from Viet Nam. Again they had an odor to them that is unforgettable. I sometimes get that smell from old flowers. It is an awful odor and one that I would surely want to forget but it is in your system and hard to get rid of.
Once in a while I hear a song or music from the past that lights up my memory for a place we were at for a function or whatever. Odors, smells and sounds all bring back memories.