Monday, October 12, 2009

Guest Post:

Renee's not here right now.  Don't come steal her stuff though, because Cody is.  Who is Cody?  This is Cody.  Also, This is Cody.  Enjoy (I mean, really, enjoy, because my friend is, in my opinion, brilliant):  

What did Kindergarten smell like? It’s hard to say. We all know, as reasoning adults, what Kindergarten is supposed to smell like. Maybe we know Kindergarteners and can determine how it smells to us now. But what did it smell like to you, age six? It hadn’t even occurred to me to wonder until I stepped into that elevator.
I was at a hospital, visiting an injured friend. I’d never been to this hospital before, as it was on the other side of town, but I found myself there, looking for my friend’s room. It was on the third floor, so I tracked down the elevator and stepped inside. My mind was off somewhere else, thinking about my to-do list or the last song I heard on the radio. But as soon as the elevator doors closed behind me, I was involuntarily yanked back to Kindergarten.
It was the smell. Some particular combination of cleaning solution, mildew and old carpet. A barrage of scattered memories came down on me. A kaleidoscopic rug; a blonde girl named Naomi; my teacher, Mrs. Schumacher, and her shiny plastic earrings. I remembered crayons and naptime and the fact that Class Picture Day happened on Wild West Day, so in the group photo we’d all look like little cowboys and cowgirls. I remembered falling off a jungle gym into the sand, finding an old thumbtack in my knee, earning me a tetanus shot. I remembered a lot of standing in line, waiting for I’m not sure what. The bus? Recess? Lunch?
I remembered my brother, a year older than me, waiting with me. We fought like savages at home, but I remembered him standing with me to make sure I got where I was going. Later, after telling him about my freshly revived Kindergarten memories, he told me he used to hug me everyday. He used to wait with me until my line of students filed into the classroom, and then he gave me a hug. I was floored. I wanted to say I remembered that, too, but I have no recollection of it whatsoever. I suppose I have enough other sensory hotkeys for my childhood that the hospital elevator smell just focused on my Kindergarten experience. Or maybe he just remembers things differently and likes to think we were nice to each other at least once in a while.
Neurologists have agreed that, of our five senses, smell is the one most linked to memory. I believe it, too. I suppose if you can tell something is close to you because you can see it, that’s not quite as intimate as if it’s because you can smell it. Smell is fused with memory and memory is a seat of emotion, so it stands to reason that certain smells can create a pretty emotional experience. The smell of some old hospital elevator made me relive being five years old for just a few seconds, which is a rare gift, and ultimately led to resurrecting a thread of peace through an otherwise fierce sibling rivalry.
Off the top of my head, I don’t remember much about high school graduation or my first Communion or junior high dances or puberty, but I now know what Kindergarten smelled like. You’ve probably had a baking pie or some old person’s cologne take you back to something you didn’t know you’d forgotten. I’m convinced that out there somewhere is a waiting room or a gas station that can bring back other periods for me. I just have to find it. And that’s fine. I’m patient.