Sunday, August 29, 2010

The scent of yesterday

It happens every time I wash my hands. The hand soap in our main bathroom has green tea and aloe in it. It is light and fresh and a little earthy. It reminds me of the lake cabin.

Instantly I am there, in the tiny bathroom that was put in the summer before I was born. My grandma's many bottles and jars of good-smelling potions are on the top of the toilet tank and scattered over the edges of the tub. There is always a container of Hibiclens somewhere in there. Grandpa was a doctor and must have received free samples.

The water tastes of iron. Everyone else drinks bottled water brought from town but I drink straight from the tap. I love the sharp metallic taste. I am anemic so no one stops me, though they comment on it every time they catch me.

I walk out of the bathroom into a small sleeping porch. There is a record player with some old records -- the Beatles, the Monkees, and several paperback books. I read One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest when I was about 12. There is another one called The Women's Room. It has a ladies bathroom door on it with the word "ladies" crossed out and "Women's" scrawled over it. I want to read it because it seems like I shouldn't, but it's boring.

The windows cover the front of the cabin facing the lake. They open inward and swing up to attach to hooks in the ceiling. When the sun dances on the waves it is reflected through the glass onto the ceiling and it looks like a million tiny diamonds swirling and cavorting. I sit in Queenie's chair and watch it, mesmerized.

The bunk room has red swinging doors like an old-time saloon. They pinch your fingers if you're not careful. Inside it has a set of bunk beds on each side of the room and an aisle just wide enough to walk in the middle. There is a cardboard clothes chest with Mickey Mouse on it. The fishing nets, canoe paddles and decoys are all stored in here, hanging from the ceiling and on the walls. It is dark but not scary.

A motorboat zooms past and I listen for the plink plink sound of the sailboat rigging hitting the mast. Later we will pull hats off the wall in the dining room and wear them while we sail. Grandma always insists I wear a hat to keep from getting a sunburn. She tells me it will age me prematurely. Her fair skin is smooth and clear and I promise I will always wear a hat. My favorite is a wide-brimmed straw hat with a blue scarf that ties under my chin. I think it makes me look like a movie star.

The candy drawer in the kitchen always holds those pink lozenges and lots of peppermint Trident. Grandma buys entire boxes of Trident and I think they must be very rich. There are also Nips, coffee flavored caramels (sometimes with fudge in the middle) that are delicious. I can eat as many as I want here and no one minds.

The dresser in the dining room has a drawer for me and my brother. In it are cut-up straws and yarn for necklaces, coloring books, crayons, crossword puzzle books, a jump rope, and a cap gun. Sometimes when we arrive there is a new toy or game in the drawer, but usually it's the same Barbie coloring book that's been there for years. I can see in the pages how I have learned to stay in the lines, shading clothes and Barbie's hair, making the outfits coordinate with the shoes and handbags as I've grown older. Other children have visited the cabin, too, and their pictures are signed in childish scrawl or scribbled autograph-style so I know they were there.

There is a table near the window in the living room with a red lamp on it. At night we turn it on and it fills the room with a warm glow. The lake grows quiet and a loon calls. The sky darkens. We hear owls and crickets and a million frogs. It smells fresh and earthy and green.

Even as a child I know this is my real home, the one where I am most myself.


  1. So good to see a posting. You should seriously consider entering your musings in an essay contest. I was brought back to my parents cabin!

  2. Wow! I feel like I am at that cabin right now. I really enjoy your writing and am happy to see you posting again. I hope this means you will be back for awhile. I know life can get in the way of blogging, however, I want you to know that your blogging inspires me and lifts my spirits in more ways that I could ever say. THANKS for sharing!

  3. Thanks for sharing this sweet memory. I have some very similar . Isn't it amazing how a scent can take us back like that?