Some scents linger throughout a lifetime, attaching to moments and memories like barnacles to a dock. Papaw’s work truck smelled like coffee and dirt; Mamaw’s hands always had hints of vanilla and sawdust. The aroma of Irish Spring soap settled into my pillow as Daddy tucked me in at night, and Momma’s old bible never lost the fragrance of a wooden church pew. These smells are so distinctive that I can almost feel them as they drive me slowly back home on a seemingly ordinary day.
As the temperature rises toward the heat of summer, I find myself lost in old dirt roads, muddy rivers, and the first warm watermelon of the season. Back home, the summer scents were an aromatic casserole of burning asphalt, freshly mowed fields, diesel-fueled tractors, and the enigmatic black muddy bottom of my favorite swimming hole.
Mississippi heat was so stifling that you could see steam dancing above the orange-brown gravel like rainbows rising from the ground. It was a heat you could smell.
A certain amount of courage is lost as we age. Today I would hesitate before jumping into deep waters underneath a canopy of trees housing snakes of treacherous intent. I may even second guess sliding face-first down the homemade mudslide plagued with roots perfectly placed to remind you that sticks and stones can break bones.
As a child desperate to avoid indoors, a few scrapes and closer-than-preferred encounters with reptiles seemed a more pleasing alternative to the wicked chore chart.
Sun up to sunset, I was an adventurous pioneer bending thickets and thorns to my will, never unprepared with my Hello Kitty lunchbox filled with survival essentials like saltines and my lucky blanket. I fought battles with dragons disguised as cows while I readied the barn for war against adults harboring lists of responsibility.
Summer was my kingdom and animals, my people — feet roughened by rocks, skin freckled from the sun, and confidence as towering as the pines. Summer was the scent of childhood.
My daughter’s mud is pluff; her towering pine is the mystical salt marsh, and her river is the ocean. Wild and free, she combats sea monsters breaking in the waves and voyages her ship into the open sea.
She crosses rapids in sandy tide pools, narrowly evading restrictive rules from dragons masquerading in adult form. She is never unprepared, with her beach bag filled with survival necessities like saltines and her cup for building castles. She dances in the sun, a pide piper of freedom, romancing hermit crabs while sea grass bends to her will.
Summer is her kingdom and marine life, her people – feet softened by the sand, skin freckled from the sun, and confidence as high as the tide. Many years from now, the wind will blow the salty scent on a seemingly ordinary day, connecting memories and moments to drive her slowly back home.
Cherimie Crane Weatherford is the owner/founder of SugarBelle, a long-time real estate broker and a lover of the obscurities of southern culture. To contact her with praise and adoration, email CCWIslandNews@ gmail.com. To complain, call your local representative.