Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Summer Memories - Privet

Today is the first day of summer in the Northern hemisphere.  We say goodbye to my "spring things" feature.  This summer, I plan something called Summer Memories.
The privet bloomed early this year.  It is finishing up now - this picture was taken a week ago.

To me, the scent of privet is summer, distilled.  It is the flower scent I remember the most from growing up in the Bronx in the 1950's and 1960's.

It seems to have become a tradition of sorts for me to blog about privet at the end of spring or the beginning of summer, so why mess with that theme?

Here's a post from 2015, which incorporates a post from 2014.

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.

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. Oh yes. The smell of Sweet Peas always takes me back to a time pre-four-year-old when my mum and I were staying with my Great aunt in Scotland. I remember hiding among the Sweet Peas giggling to myself while my great aunt said, "Now where can that little lass be?" If you know what the sweet pea plant looks like, you'll have an idea how young I was. Probably about 2? Yet the smell still strikes me 70 years later! Bring home the Bacon? What does this mean? Where does it come from?

  2. Privet does have a distinctive and memorable scent. It certainly made a nice memory for you!

  3. Scent does work like magic for me. So many memories come pouring from the abyss of the mind because each of them is associated with some precious memory from the past, esp from childhood days and the early years. I could write a post on it, Alana.

  4. There's something about smell that evokes memories much like a song not heard in a long time does.

  5. What a lovely way to pay tribute to the changing of seasons. There are some smells that evoke certain memories in all of us ....

  6. Oh, Privet has a lovely scent. Cute post- yes, the scents of something can certainly bring back memories. My grandparents used to have a huge rose collection in their garden - still the smell of rose takes me back to childhood summers...:-)

  7. I'm not sure I would recognize a privet if I smelled or saw one.


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