Friday

How will our children remember us, do you ever wonder? What scents, sounds, visual cues will comprise their mental imagery of us as the years go on?

When I think back on my family in childhood, I have, I realize, a very specific set of scents, tastes and images that come to mind.
I'll start with Pears soap because it is this one that always sets off a cascade of early sense-memories for me.
My mother's family were Pears purists. The transparent amber bar occupied every soapdish in every house they ever lived in, both in Europe and the US.
Marron Glacé, glazed chestnuts, my favorite treat in childhood, thanks to our family trips to visit my mum's parents in the South of France.
Badedas, my default bubble bath throughout my early childhood. I can still vividly recall the smell of it and the texture of the bottle, though I haven't seen one in decades. The scent is fresh, green and woodsy with a hint of cedar and musk. I think this accounts for my taste for fresh, woodsy, slightly masculine scents in preference to flowery feminine perfumes as an adult.
Mason Pearson, the gold standard in hairbrushes.

Of course, there are also specific things that I associate in memory with each member of the family.

My mother:
River stones, which she collected in her travels, and used to decorate in any manner of ways - from the ballast in Christmas tree pots to trinkets for windowsills.
The antique, bone-handled pen knives which she always carried in a pocket of her jeans, and with which she would cut fruit or bread when we stopped for roadside picnics, wiping them clean on a handkercheif afterward.
Her way with the Jackie-O style...she always looked chic in light capris, dark tops and bare feet.
Her straight-legged Levis. My mum has always worn Levis, and there again she is a purist. During the age of bell-bottoms, she would travel halfway across the country to find straight-legged levis in some ranching community in Nebraska or Utah. She would not have been caught dead in a pair of elephant bells.

This one goes for both my parents, who roadtripped across the American West in their soft-topped MGs during their childless years, and drove me to school in them (on lucky days) when I was a child. They were a bit of a nightmare...the brakes were always giving out...but let's face it, nothing compares to the feel of the road just inches beneath your seat, the worn, stitched leather, the sound and smell of that engine and, lest we forget, the peerless sense of freedom one gets from taking a running start and vaulting over the door into the passenger seat.

My father:
A painting from one of his early periods.
The trademark red bandana that he always wore tied around his neck, and with which he mopped his brow when he was working hard.
His horn rim glasses (I love to see this style coming back!)
The buckskin gloves he wore in winter instead of wool.

My grandfather:
My grandfather was a creature of his environment. He didn't need much in the way of accessories. He likes fine wine and had a cellar. He liked my grandmother's wonderful cooking. But for the rest of the day he could be found in his workshop, among walls full of intricate electronic equipment and the ham radio sets of which he was fond.

The one and only object with which I have always associated him is the classic Brooks Bros tuxedo shirt, of which he had many, in very large sizes (he stood inches over six feet tall, lean and rangy as his Dutch ancestry). Now and then, I would snag one of his old tux shirts and wear it into the ground, sleeves rolled, pinned with a kilt pin in front. I still have one.

An engineer and an inventor, he founded the Rotron corporation which produced the cooling systems he had designed for early computers and electronics. He was also a follower of Buddhist teachings, and ran his corporation accordingly. Among the corporate halls of his headquarters stood many a gilded buddhist icon. One of the most beautiful was later gifted to a Buddhist monastery outside of Woodstock, where it still reigns in peace and beauty.

My grandmother:
The dried lavender with which she scented the closets, the linens and the bedrooms. No sleep is a sweet as a sleep slept between lavender-scented sheets.
The homemade mayonnaise which she used as a dressing on her wonderful salads, with squeezed lemon, olive oil, and freshly-laid eggs.
Terra cotta was my grandmother's favorite color with which to decorate, from paint to bathroom towels. She always complimented it beautifully.


And finally, the Brooks Bros car blanket that, I believe, was passed down from my grandparents to my parents, and finally to me. We still use it as a picnic blanket. It is as elegant and sturdy now as it was decades ago.

...so tell me, what do you remember best about your family from childhood? And what do you suppose your children will remember most vividly about you?

All images via Google Images.

10 comments:

alliot said...

Thanks!!!
Very inspiring!

Jeanne-ming said...

I grew up in Taiwan and so Darkie Toothpaste was the only teeth cleaner available. It has a distinctive smell and I always associate that smell with my father's kisses.
We bathes with a purple soap that had antispectic properties as a kid I hated the smell, kind of medicine-y, but now it is my definition of clean.
My Dad loves leather. Old leather bags. He was a professor in Taiwan and would pack up his papers in an old leather sachel. I loved its cracked folds. I recently visited him in China and saw it still on his desk. I love old leather bags and collect them now. I recently overheard my daughter comment to someone about "my mother's bags"

The Wanderers' Daughter said...

Jeanne-ming, I LOVE your descriptions! Isn't it interesting, the way things make an impression in our youth, and how that impression changes with time, familiarity and nostalgia? Thanks so much for sharing this! And I love that your daughter is already starting to identify your things with your persona.

Geisslein said...

again such a lovely post...let me think about my mother, who died 26 years ago...unfortunately we did not had so much time together so it´s not easy to remember, wich makes me feel sad...but I know, she was a wonderful and beloved woman with a BIG BIG heart and lot of love inside, and I still miss her so much!

Sophie said...

It's funny the things that come through different branches of the family. Pears soap, badedas and MG cars all get an instant visceral response.

Dried lavender however has been ruined by my time as a window dresser for french chain L'Occitane. Never looked at it in the same way since.

Yoli said...

What a lovely post Maia and so sentimental and intimate. I think they will associate certain things with each of us. With my husband his work and cameras, he loves cameras. With me, most likely will be swords and the fact that since coming to us, I call this house, "La Casa de Muchos Besos". To this day, she always asks me when are we going home to the house of many kisses.

MODsquad said...

Love this post!

JGregg said...

wonderful layout and content on this post. thx so much for sharing your memories. lovely.

John g.

jen laceda said...

What wonderful memories you have!

You know, my grandmother always used Pears soap!! Ha! This definitely reminds me of her! She's now 99 years old!!

Snowflowers Mum said...

funny...my childhood was Pears soap, my mother used badedas and I still have my Mason pearson hairbrush.

funny how cultures overlap.

I love your sentiment...it truly spans not only the globe but the generations of your family...how lucky QQ will be to know all of this