For those of you that have read Random Olio over the last couple of years, you may remember that I am not big on holidays. Most likely a product of my childhood, they have never really been my thing. My dad was overzealous about Christmas, and so there are things that make me nostalgic, as there are memories I have where he seemed happy and completely into the moment. Yet most of those moments were things I witnessed not really things he taught me or I learned from his example.
He was all about Santa, in the decorate-your-house kind of way. Not as much as a kid but when I was in high school and college and no longer lived with him I would usually see him for part of Christmas day. His house, with haphazard furnishings throughout the year, would transform into a showcase for Santa and Father Christmas decorations. Some of them actually creeped me out in a wizard-like or scary old man way. Somehow as he got older, he would wait until after Christmas to purchase a Santa or two on clearance. Only to pack them away and bring them out for a few weeks the next year.
In any case, I am all for change and a new look on things. So when I heard about Fashion Santa I thought “why not!” He hails not from the North Pole, but from a shopping mall in Toronto, Canada. He is styled in clothes from stores in the mall in a lumber jack meets metrosexual St. Nick way. Along the way he is raising money for a charity that helps sick kids. So all in all the 2015 looking Santa is doing good.
Next I would be curious how the stylist would upgrade Mrs. Claus. Anyone up for the task?
During brunch on Sunday, the bathroom had a smell that brought me back to the bathroom in my church growing up. Strange as that might be. It reminded me of the decor, the darkness of that dank basement where we had Sunday School and other such memories. It was not an uplifting place so the memory of the bathroom did not bring me to have a smile on my face. More a reminder of memories from childhood.
It amazes me how easily a smell can bring you back to a moment in time. You can run the play-by-play of events through your thoughts, reviewing what happened when that smell is brought to your senses. I have had it when smelling a specific food, an item of clothing in my closet, linens on a bed. At times the smell brings back wonderful memories, and other times it is a reminder of a past that might better be forgotten. Sometimes a smell of certain foods is nostalgia of childhood, and then when we are able to recreate those recipes, the taste is nothing like the smell to us. We have grown up, changed, and honed our taste buds.
At times a lotion or hair product might make me think of my grandma, a type of make-up my mom, and an aftershave my dad. Even if I have not seen them for 15-25 years the smells are ingrained in my thoughts and memories and nothing can take that away. Smells trigger memories, and we are quickly jettisoned back to a moment in time as we try to recollect why the smell reminds us of something. When we do remember, it is as though we were 10 or 12 or 20 again. A smile might cross our face, or a tear fall towards the ground.
Are there smells that trigger specific memories for you?
Our niece turned one year old a few weeks ago. We decided to send a few toys and one of them was reminiscent of our childhood. Do you remember the Fisher Price Little People Farm? It had a barn door, and when you opened it, it mooed like a cow. There were other farm animals, a fence, and a grain tower. There was a little window at the top of the barn that opened and you could put the little people in there so they could look at the farm where the bales of hay were stored. Ahh….memories.
So a few weeks ago we are in California at Charlie’s house, and the Little People Farm comes out, and we are flabbergasted. The thing is a cheap piece of crap. The barn doors do not open. There is no mooing noise. The little people are not little. The animals are funky looking and fat and their legs do not bend or move. The fence is chintzy. We spent over $40 on hoping to create our childhood memories for Charlie and find that she got the raw end of the deal. It was horrid.
I want to send a note to Fisher Price and ask what they were thinking. Her barn – well the top comes off. No noises come from the farm, and honestly it just looks like a barn lunch pail. Saddened that such a shitty birthday gift made it on her doorstep (compliments of Amazon), we later found a toy store and had fun seeing what fascinated her. In the end we found a cute bowling set up of animals, and had fun having her roll the ball to knock them over. What child does not love knocking over anything? I have to say, I am not biased or anything, but Charlie is damn good at kicking a ball.
After some online research, I found the original Fisher Price Little People Farm going for over $100. Seriously? Fisher Price needs to go back to its roots and produce a toy that lasts as long as the one I used to play with — I mean it lived in the nursery of my church for years and years. Bring back your vintage farm. It was worth it just to hear the moo when you opened the door.
I am a sucker for a feel good novel. You know the kind that makes you dream about living on a farm or opening up a bakery, regardless of all the work it actually takes to pull such ventures off. Over the weekend as I was finishing up such novel, one of the very last paragraphs on the last page of the book reminded me of my mom and grandma:
“My grandmother’s handwriting filled the yellowed index cards, her letters tall and elegant, directing the creation of breads and cakes, pies and pastries, cookies, and of course, muffins. Even in the faded peacock-blue ink, her words live on.” page 341
The book? The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe by Mary Simses. A novel about a woman whose grandma had asked her to deliver a letter for her and then dies, and the journey the woman has to make to unravel a past she did not know about her grandma. A fluffy, fun book? Yes. Still, it was good. She talks about food throughout, and juxtaposes it with the woman (a Manhattan attorney) who is always careful about what she eats only to find comfort in the food she eats on her journey.
I still have a few of the index recipe cards in both my mom and grandma’s handwriting. You can tell how often a dish was made by the grease and spill marks, the worn look of the paper, and sometimes the bleed of a pen. I only have a few remnants of these recipes. At one point many years ago, when laptops became a hot item (although they still looked like bricks) my sister and I transferred the recipes we inherited to her new laptop so we could both have copies, and then not too long later the laptop died and was not able to be resurrected. In some ways it is fine as we have found, explored, and made our own favorite recipes, but there are still a few that linger out there that I have not been able to replicate.
Sometimes Chris asks me if the memory of the time, or the memory and nostalgia of that favorite recipe is strong but if I actually was able to replicate the dish would it still have the same effect on me? I love my mom’s coffee cake, and yet that was not lost (thanks to Betty Crocker). I have even changed it up and added my own twist. There are many that I probably never even know that I am missing. The one that I have tried over and over to recreate with horrible luck was her chocolate chess pie. I remember making it often as a kid and loving it, but each time I try now it is a runny mess. I think Chris has given up on it. So if any of you have a chocolate chess pie recipe that you want to share, I am all ears!
What did you dream about? Not last night. And, not while you were sleeping. What did you dream about as a child? Did you think you could figure out how to make world peace happen? Or, find a way for women to be respected and not harmed? Or did you dream about having the white picket fence, 2.5 children, husband or wife, and a dog? Or was that the Barbie world of Ken dolls, Corvettes, and G.I. Joe? How about a dream of opening a bakery, or becoming a lawyer?
This Daily Worth article by Amanda Steinberg is a tribute to Jody Sherman, former CEO of ecomom.com. Jody recently took his own life. This is an excerpt from her tribute:
“Girls (so I thought) were supposed to dream about carpeted split-levels and baking cookies for their kids. As a 7 year-old, I’d fantasize about flying planes over Somalia to deliver food, or marching into Palestine to ask, Can we resolve this already? I feel most at home when I’m not home—out in the mess of the world, working on solutions to huge, systemic problems.”
Amanda’s look back at her childhood makes me think back to mine. My dreams ebbed and flowed. I did not have the wedding notebook, or dream about kids. I think the experiences I had as a child were a bit limited so I had no idea how much of the world I was truly missing out on. The memories I have of my dreams, were about writing and being an author (which I find so interesting today), being an artist, and being an entrepreneur. I think the art I did at school, selling Girl Scout cookies, canvasing for my paper route, and selling candies and nuts for school, made me think about what other kinds of business ideas I could come up with in the future. It is interesting to look back on what engaged me when I was young compared to where I am today.
I also remember having a dream to be able to take care of my family. For me that meant being able to pay my bills and having food on the table. Sometimes our dreams have more to do with what we do not have, and wanting the security and fulfillment to know we do not have to worry anymore. I am grateful that dream has come true.