It is more than this “gift” that my youngest born and I share. I think that thing is called “olfactory memory.” When you smell something and it reminds you of something else. My daughter smells a certain smell and immediately thinks of specific places in Walt Disney World. I smell bacon and I’m a 3 year-old transported to my grandmothers black and white kitchen, standing behind my mom, hugging her legs and tracing the yellow patterns in the red carpet with my eyes. Yes, my grandmother was an avant-garde decorator in her day.
But this feeling is more than that. And it happened to me one day in the middle of buying a lunch of cheap sushi in The Fresh Market store. It was a pretty tumultuous time at work – which also means in my life, because the two are inextricably bound together in this crazy, by the grace of God kind of way. I was feeling overwhelmed at that moment, angry, hurt – and maybe add a little disappointment in there for good measure.
And somewhere between the deli cheese and the gourmet chocolates it happened. I wheeled my mini-shopping cart (you know the kind, that is designed to pick up a couple of items, but usually gets so overcome by all the pretty items that are just clamoring to go home with you that things start spilling over the sides and into someone else’s space?) so, yes, that kind of shopping cart. I wheeled it straight into the shins of an elderly woman who was minding her own business nonchalantly passing through the wine section. Of course this led to the explosion of my cart and my overpriced box of crackers ($6.99 for crackers??) flew onto the floor. I thought I was going to lose my cool right there next to the gruyere. Just as my eyes went from the floor to this woman’s face I did, in fact, lose my cool. Something about her was my grandmother. Something about her. Something about her made my eyes immediately fill with tears. She smiled at me and then she moved on. Something about her.Trying to collect myself, I jerked my cart to the right and then ran straight into them. The cows. The most beautiful cows on the label of a wine bottle. Would you believe me if I told you that something about them, those cows on a wine bottle, reminded me of my grandfather. You see, he was a cattle rancher. So many of my days growing up were spent at the feet of my grandfather, rustling through fields feeding cows, delivering calves, counting them over and over to make sure not one was lost. Loving these big bovines like they were puppy dogs – calling them by name, rubbing their ears, feeling their lick on my face (that part is a little different than the feeling of a puppy tongue, I’ll admit). And when I see cows like the ones on that bottle, I’m pretty sure that my grandfather isn’t far away.
It was at that point, that more than loosing my cool, I was overwhelmed by this strange sense – this incredible feeling of embrace. That kind of feeling you have when you are a small child and you’ve been riding for hours trapped in a car with your older brothers poking and prodding and wrestling for the valuable backseat real estate until you consider the merits of opening the window and hurling yourself out, but just in the nick of time you pull up into the driveway of the place that is, without a doubt – even though you don’t live there – the place that is home. And you jump out of the car, your box of Lemon Heads spilling out on the concrete, and you run to the front door but before you get there it is already flung wide open and waiting there are the four most best, biggest, fabulousest arms reaching to scoop you up before you can even leap off your feet to get into them and those arms embrace you.
That kind of feeling. Just from an old woman who sacrificed her shins and some cows on a wine bottle at The Fresh Market. And let me tell you. That is exactly what I needed to feel.