When I smell fresh grass in the spring I think of baseball. Connecting the smell of grass to baseball occurred in my childhood. At this point in my life it is a connection that is permanent. Newly emerging spring grass or even newly mowed grass equals baseballs, gloves and bats.
When I smell Coppertone suntan lotion I think of the swimming pools of my youth and the long hot summer days of chlorine treated water, diving boards and the whistle of the lifeguard telling me to quit running as the echo of a score of other swimming, diving and yelling children reverberated off the concrete pool apron and rattled around in my ears. I remember all of that as soon as I smell Coppertone.
I’m certain you have sensory connections like these. Sights, smells or sounds that immediately propel you back to a time in your youth. They have the strength to transport you to a time when an experience was new and because it was new it possessed enormous power, a power that could permanently imprint your memory and even shape your behavior.
I think that is the key to why we have these sensory associations all our lives. I believe it occurs because we have discovered something we love. Not only that, it is something we have discovered we love for the very first time. Because it is the first notion of that love the imprint is deep. In the very fertile gray matter of a child an association that will last a lifetime is born.
I remember with vividness a bright day in September when I was 8 years old. It was the first day of school, the first day of the 3rd grade for me that year. However my memory is not of crayons and new pencils or the face of a teacher. The vivid memory that I can conjure in a heartbeat is of an 8 year old girl named Cathy Self. As time would later reveal to me she owned the exact birthday as mine. She was standing in line in the cafeteria when I saw her. Before you misunderstand that I had never seen her before let me inform you that I had spent the entire second grade sitting beside her all day long.
What was different on this first day of 3rd grade must surely have been the result of some type of voodoo magic of the summer holidays. Cathy Self in a plaid skirt, red blouse, white socks and patent black shoes collapsed my senses into a feeling I had never known. It was a good feeling. It was a feeling that I find virtually impossible to describe with words. Maybe I don’t actually have to describe it to you. I’m betting you know the feeling. It was attraction to the opposite sex in a way that seemed to scream at you that nothing would ever be the same again. Girls were no longer vile or unworthy. Cathy Self owned power over my 8 year old senses. Authentic power housed in an 8 year old frame of curling brown hair and sweet smile.
I remain fascinated by the memory now all these years later because I will tell you straight out that as an 8 year old boy I had no sense whatsoever of sexuality. No clue about sexual attraction. No idea what created children, why moms and dads were married and I can’t say that I remember caring about any of it. I was a walking definition of boyhood innocence.
But the attraction to Cathy Self was very real, warm and wonderful. It left an imprint.
And now I’m connecting the dots between baseball and grass, swimming pools and Coppertone, and women and that special feeling of attraction.
Across blogdom we find ourselves in pitched conversations about women and men and our differences and aggravations. Our culture creates bestselling books about men from Mars and women from Venus.
Above the roar of it all I remember a day in
I appreciate you. When I see you I want to love you. I want to hug you. I want to touch you. I want to know what you think. I want to please you. I want to take your clothes off as if opening a precious package and then photograph you so I can always own a reflection of your native beauty. I want to hold your hand in church. I want to smile when you smile, especially if it was me that made you smile to begin with. I love you for your devotion to children and family. I love you for your longing cry for peace in a violent and mean world. I love your gentle and comforting way. I love the smell of your hair and the sound of your laughter.
I love women. Yes, all of you.
Happy Valentines Day.