Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Scent of a Memory

Memories are fickle things. Perhaps it’s a liability of age, but the older I get; the easier it is to remember things that happened twenty years ago rather than what I ate for lunch yesterday. It fascinates me how the oddest things can trigger memories. 

It happened to me last week. I was sitting at my desk (I teach high school English). The room was quiet except for the sound of the heater that hummed one steady note while it blew a continual blast of hot air. Our school has a coal furnace, and in the classrooms, all of the heat comes from one register that squats like a giant gray box under a window (I know, that’s not exactly energy efficient). In my classroom, the old unit has one control with two choices – on and off. The metallic smell of burning coal comes from the heater in faint puffs.

This particular morning, it was ten degrees, so the heater was in the “on” position. My students and I were writing in our journals, when the hum of the heater unearthed a memory. I closed my eyes and let it float to the surface. 

I am in the first grade at P. V. Dennis Elementary School, and it is a cold day just like this one. The room is warm and the acrid scent of coal burning in the furnace permeates the room. I am sitting at my desk, a little girl in a jumper and thick black tights, laboring over a writing tablet, lined gray paper with the right amount of space between lines so I can print my letters. My chubby hand grips a fat red pencil. I look up at the letters my teacher, Mrs. Yates, has printed on the board. She has a contraption that holds four pieces of chalk. When she swipes it across the board, it makes straight lines for her letters to rest upon. I am fascinated by that contraption and long to try it. 

I open my eyes and I’m back at my desk. My students are still writing and the heat is still pumping into the room. I look down at my journal; it’s lined pink pages with gold embossed edges invite me to put words on the page. Today, I am writing with a purple gel pen. I smile and keep writing.


  1. Oh, how I relate to what you've been experiencing with the memories. I call my 83 year old mother nearly every day and often we will turn to old memories. I sometimes rely on what she can remember to help me verify some of my memories.

    Like you describe, odd little things can sometimes evoke something from my past. Now especially since I've started my memoir blog I have started dredging my memory banks for stories to use.

    If you are interested in doing a guest post about your memories or something related to writing memoir, I'd love to host a spot for you. Check out the blog to get an idea of some of the things I've done there. I host a lot of guests as well as write my own pieces. I post once a week each Saturday so your post gets a weeks worth of top of the page visibility.

    Let me know and we can set up something. See link below.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog
    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  2. Hello!

    Yes, I would love to do a guest post on your blog. Let me know when!
    And thank you for your kind words about my post. I look forward to hearing from you.


    1. Sounds great! I've sent info to the email address you have in your profile. Let me know if you don't get the email. Look forward to hearing back from you.