Story & Photos by Kay Owen
People sometimes have experiences that immediately trigger a memory of something belonging to their past.
The smell of wood smoke may bring up visions of a family campout when they were a child, or they might be reminded of their grandfather’s tool shed and flannel shirts every time they smell Old Spice.
For many, it could be a certain song or sound; perhaps a train whistle, an owl’s hoot, or waves breaking on a seashore. Some may have a flash of memory if they see an old swing hanging from a tree limb, a string of pearls, or an old Ford Mustang. For others, the spark might be the taste of homemade peach ice cream, warm cinnamon toast, or an A&W Root Beer.
Whatever the catalyst, it is safe to say that a stirred memory is a common occurrence among humans, and something that makes us more alike than we may think.
One of the details that brings a pleasant memory to me is when I visit almost any small southern town.
You know, the ones where both sides of Main Street are lined with two-storied red brick buildings with big display windows, and there is a Rexall Drugstore on one corner and a hardware store on another.
These towns always conjure memories of me going with my mother to the beauty shop in Black Mountain, North Carolina every Saturday morning to have her hair “fixed”. Lucky for me, there was a five-and-dime store next door to the shop and sometimes Momma would give me some change and let me go to the store by myself, with strict instructions to only go to the toy section, to only stay for a few minutes, and to come straight back.
Although this was sixty odd years ago, I can still hear the creak of the wooden floor as I walked to the back of the store where the toy bins were, and the ding of the manual cash register bell when I paid for my purchase. Because of my limited funds, my choices were few, so I usually ended up with a whistle, which my mom hated; a rubber ball, which I always lost; or a paddle ball or jacks, which I could never master. Now that I think about it, I realize that the sense of freedom I felt from being able to go to the store all by myself is clearly the best part of this memory!
Flowers are the source of another favorite memory of mine.
When I see, or even think, of several specific flowers, I am immediately connected to thoughts of my beloved grandmother, Margaret Tennyson Burnette, affectionately known to everyone as Tenny.
Both of my parents worked so, much to my delight, I got to stay with Tenny every weekday during the summer months. There was an easy flow to the routine of our days, and many mornings we would go on a walk in the gladiolus garden, which was just beyond the side yard.
As we walked along the pathway that meandered through the garden, we would find ourselves surrounded by tall spikes of red, yellow, orange, and pink gladioli, standing like sentinels in the sun. Clumps of bright orange lilies marked the end of the path, and from there we could see the lower field, which was covered with splashes of color generated by the goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace, sunflowers, morning glories, and other wildflowers which grew there.
After quietly gazing over the beauty before us, we would turn and go back to the house through the side yard. As we reached the front, we could see the rose campions, which are the flowers that connect me to these memories the most. They grew along both sides of the front walk, the walk which I went down every morning when my mom dropped me off. I hope I will never forget how the rose campion’s bright magenta faces and pale green leaves looked in the early morning sunlight, nor the smiles and hugs I got from my grandmother when I reached the front door. Sweet memories, indeed!
Memories are a part of us; silver threads woven into the fabric of who we are and what we value.
I am almost 70 years old, and I am very grateful that many of the things I see, hear, smell, taste, and touch today still connect me to memories of days gone by. Without those memories I would not fully be who I am.
What do YOU remember?
What smells or sounds or sights remind you of a childhood experience or a happy memory? What connects you to your past?
Will you share those memories with us?
Submit your memories and stories to us via email to lacey@travelersresthere . We’ll gather those memories, share some with our readers and pick one of you to receive a TRH swag set – a local TR map poster, stickers and TRH cards.