Saturday, June 20, 2015

Local Saturday - The Last Full Day of Spring

Last weekend, we visited my mother in law's house.  The privet hedges were blooming, and the heady fragrance lay heavy in the warm, humid air.

Saturday night, my mother in law's next door neighbor came over to visit.  She let me look at her Facebook page and I saw something amazing - she went to my local high school, back in the Bronx.

We exchanged notes and I remembered we grew up less than 1/2 mile, and 20 years, apart.  But I never knew she had gone to my junior high school, or my local high school.  (I didn't go to my local high school, but I learned to swim in its pool, the pool she remembered so well.)

Ah, childhood memories.

Today is the last day of spring, and I want to bring you back perhaps 55 years (OK, a teeny bit more than 55 years) for a special memory brought back by the scent of the old fashioned privet hedges in front of my mother in law's house.  This is a post I wrote last June after a different visit to her house.

Privet and Bees, Scent and Memory

A memory of over 50 years ago.

I grew up in the Bronx, a borough of New York City, in a city housing project.  All green spaces in the project were carefully fenced away behind chain link fences.  We children would get into trouble with the maintenance men who cared for the project if we climbed the fences and dared to play in the greenery.  So, of course, we did it as often as possible.

In June, the privet would bloom.  
The blend of humidity and sweet privet scent would attract bees to the hedges.
It's a scent I love to this day.

The boys would catch the bees in glass jars.  That's not something we girls really got into.  Instead, we would look for ladybugs to catch.

Yesterday, I visited my mother in law, who lives in a suburb of New York City. We needed to attend a court hearing with her. My spouse's petition for the guardianship of my developmentally disabled brother in law, "B", was finally being heard in court.

It was warm, and humid, and privet hedges were blooming in front of her house.

They were swarming with bees.

The heady scent brought me back over 50 years in a matter of seconds.  I was a little girl once again, climbing chain link fences while we looked out for the project maintenance men, so my playmates and I could have a few minutes of interaction with nature.

Scent and memory. A living time machine.

Has scent ever brought you back to a favorite childhood memory?


  1. Is so funny that I'm reading your blog on scent, I'm working on a book of our five senses, and we shouldn't minimize smell..smell triggers many things in out brain especially many memories.

  2. Oh, that's why you love gardening so much. Makes sense.

    They say scent is connected to memory somehow in the brain, so scents easily trigger memories.

  3. I agree about scent triggering a memory. At the smell of wood burning, I'm back again--sitting in front of a wood fire in the open, maybe cooking potatoes in their jackets. The skin would be blackened but it gave a nice squeeky crunch on the teeth. The aboriginals used this coal to keep their teeth white--that's what I'd tell myself.

  4. What a gorgeous selection of picture. I feel all summery now!

  5. Alana,
    Isn't it funny how the sight of something special might not transport you back in time instantaneously, but the scent of it will? The smell of lilacs--boom!--takes me right back to being a schoolgirl, heady with the thrill of the last days of school before summer break. I'm so glad that God gave us this gift of scent.
    p.s. I've never seen privet hedges blooming! I'd like to hear more stories about your growing up years in the Bronx. That is a world away from us here in Nebraska.

  6. I enjoyed the photos of the hedge. There is a local honey brand called TruBee, I think. The story behind it is that they did not know what they were doing when they got their first bees, and a bee farmer tasted it and said, "hedge honey." It meant that the bees were allowed to roam in the neighborhood naturally. The honey was not contrived for its taste. They decided to let it be that way. Yet another thing I learned about the importance of bees, honey, and sustainable agriculture. Good luck with your brother. You visited my blog and commented, so you may know/remember my daughter has autism. I do have guardianship of her. Hope it was successful in court.


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