Making Scents of Memories.

Every morning on my way to work, I drive past a construction site, filling up with new homes on a charming, tree-lined street in the charming, tree-lined neighborhood in which I work. Construction itself isn’t so unusual, especially here in Nashville where, everywhere you turn, something old (and often lovely or historical) is being torn down to build something new – like terrible condos. *sigh*

But this isn’t a condemnation of Nashville’s ongoing destination/it-city status, nor on the seemingly thoughtless expansion efforts that are effectively pushing those of lower incomes out of town, thanks to the influx of outsiders coming from either coast with a whole lot more money to spend. I save that rant for in-person discussions (and am usually preaching to the choir anyway… have I mentioned that Chattanooga’s looking better every day?).

The point: that construction site reminds me of someone I used to know who was important to me. Still is, even though we haven’t spoken in almost 15 years. The memory of him is kept alive and well, thanks to the smell of sawdust and the sight of construction: Carhartts and sawdust at the end of every day, back then. I guess it’ll always be like that, and it’s a happy association, so I’m okay with it.

I’ve been thinking about what other sights, sounds, scents, and tastes remind me of times past, or people, or things or events, and what a neat, powerful thing that can be:

  • The smell of Froot Loops reminds me of my grandmother’s house; that old yellow kitchen with the sun streaming through the window. The sound of clocks chiming, all the china blue throughout the house, that gorgeous velvet sofa with the hand-carved wood. The old 50’s car that used real gasoline (ah, that smell) and had red leather seats. A glass bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, another filled with change for me to roll. She always had vanilla ice cream with a chocolate swirl and brownies waiting for us; always had Froot Loops for breakfast.
  • Jergen’s lotion reminds me of my mom.
  • Obsession for Men will always remind me of a dude I went to high school with back in Roswell. I was friends with his sister; he had flipped and styled hair, wore tight jeans and puffy shirts. Total swoon material back then.
  • The smell (and sight) of See’s candy lentils reminds me of my dad. It was such a brief experience, but must have been an important time for me, the one or two times we bought that candy together when I was growing up.
  • Wild onions remind me of growing up in Roswell, too. That empty field next to Scott L’s house; that creek that was so good for finding worms; red clay and white chalk; a time when it was fine for me to make my way home alone.
  • The smell of cut grass and the sight of warm sun as it dapples through the trees reminds me of happiness.
  • Falling leaves, too.
  • And the smell of a burning fire… It reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on, like a memory just out of reach, or something deeper, ingrained… eternal and otherworldly, almost. Or like something built into my bones. Never been able to figure that one out.

And then there’s the taste of things… although, only one in particular ever comes to mind: the taste of starlight mints. They remind me of riding in my step-dad’s diesel Mercedes; specifically when I’d be forced to go to church on Sundays, stuck in the car with the smell of diesel, cigarette smoke, and too much Stetson cologne.

(I won’t eat starlight mints, ever again.)

I do think I’ll write a post sometime soon listing all the songs that carry a memory with ’em, though. Even the bittersweet ones are worth remembering.

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Thursday Thought(s)

Genuine… authenticity… truth… real… the real Roxanne… there are all kinds of words and phrases used to describe being, well… real. Telling the truth – your truth – and being true to yourself, I suppose. What does it mean to be genuine? To be real? Does it mean being the person you are right now, including whatever defense mechanisms and walls and behaviors you’ve built up? Does it mean being honest, even if that honesty, that truth you’re telling, changes 6 months down the road? How do you know if what you’re feeling is real and the truth, or something you’ve just talked yourself into?

And what are the barriers to being real? To being honest? To telling your truth and finding people who are trustworthy enough to hear it? Fear? Of what? What is it that prevents people from being who they really are?

Many years ago, my very favorite person at the time installed a mirror in my room. The next day, he asked if I’d used it; I told him I had, and that I loved it. But I hadn’t used it, I’d forgotten about it. I was a people-pleaser back then and wanted to make him happy. By that afternoon, though, I was eat up with the guilt for not telling the truth, so I had to call him and sell myself out. I think he laughed (good-naturedly, of course) and I felt better and that was all there was to it, aside from the learning experience I got from it; still carry that around with me – obviously.

I tell that story a lot. There have been other situations like that over the years, ones that I think illustrate an inner struggle pretty well – wanting to be one kind of person and wanting to enjoy a certain kind of reputation, but really just being someone else and eventually that REAL someone else bubbling to the surface. “Here is who I really am.” Trusting that the real you, the honest one, is good enough just as you are – even if you screw up sometimes. Or a lot. (It would probably help if I weren’t so hard on myself.)

About as long ago as the mirror incident, I knew someone who lied. All the time. About everything. Big, small, personal, inconsequential… didn’t matter, you just never knew if what was being said was the truth. They were lies about who that person was as a human being, as well as what they may or may not have had going on at the time. And that makes me wonder why, you know? Where does that come from? What gets you to the point where you feel like you have to lie about everything? I mean, I get that what I did re: the mirror was a lie, but I also get where that came from, and it was a one-off in that situation/relationship. Is the person telling all the lies all the time being real? I mean… is it possible to lie and have that lie-telling persona be who you really are? “Here is who I really am – I tell lies.” What does “real” really mean?

Anyway. It all leads me back to pondering who I really am. I suppose calling it/me a work in progress is about as good as it’s ever going to get. In keeping with that, I had another “incident” this week as I make my way through the SNAP/food stamp challenge for school (more about that in another post). I totally cheated by taking advantage of free coffee – we are strongly discouraged from taking advantage of free food during the challenge, and lose points if we go over budget. Granted, I didn’t go outside the budget, which is the main requirement of the project, but still.

True to form, I sold myself out with the class. I guess maybe that’s part of who I am, too – I do things that aren’t necessarily in keeping with who I want to be, and then I course-correct as best I can. And maybe part of that, too, is being willing to own whatever consequences come as the result of actions taken.

The little things like this are easy; it’s the big stuff where there’s some work to be done. I like to think of myself as this amazing communicator, and I’m all about encouraging that in other people, but the bigger it is, the scarier it seems, and the easier it feels to just ignore it until it (hopefully) goes away or works itself out somehow. Or, you convince yourself you’re okay with how things are, without having to speak up, until you really are. Or you think you are. See also: Paragraph 1.

“You make-believe until you can for-real.”

All I know is, I value seeing and knowing who people really are, and I do my best to present the same. I think we are our defenses as much as we are who we are when the defenses are down and the vulnerability is there instead. And we get to choose what we want to change (or if we want to change at all, I suppose). We are the sum of our experiences, we are the stories we tell, and, to quote a favorite, we are “the product of all the people that [we] ever loved.” And if that’s the case? Who I really am is pretty great. That’s the real Roxanne.

Thursday Thought(s)

Don’t look for or expect people to treat you well simply because you’re a good person. Instead, look for people who treat you well because THEY are good people.

That way, if someone doesn’t treat you well, it has nothing to do with who you are, and everything to do with who they are. The responsibility lies with them, and you should never question your own worth just because someone else is an asshole.