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The Smell of My Youth

I think making desert is the nicest thing you can do for your child.

That’s a bold statement, I know, but hear me out.

This past Sunday, Jaimie and I went and saw my parents. We think we’ve figured out a way to see them while practicing social distancing. We’ve been avoiding the house. We’re not scientists, but we figure that inside is where most of the germs are. Also, I’m not a mathematician, but I figure that outside is bigger than inside. This gives us more areas in which to social distance. And if six feet is safe, fifteen feet should make us even safer.

Because of this new system, we’ve been hanging out in underutilized parts of the yard. The drive way, for example. That’s where we spent our first two trips and lo and behold—we really liked it! Dad said it reminded him of his childhood, before air conditioning ruined the south. It reminded me of living in Brooklyn, when the stoop ladies would sit outside between the hours of 4 and 7 p. m.

Then we started getting adventurous. We went from in the driveway by the house to the end of the drive way closer to the yard. The view was better, as was the shade. We sat down there for trips 3 and 4, and then, when we went over this past Sunday, my father had gone completely rogue.

There is area of grass, just off the drive way, behind a row of apple trees and right next to the wood shed. The highlight of this area of the yard is the rose bush. It’s about six feet tall and this past Sunday it was in full bloom with hot pink roses.

This is where my father had gone rogue. He left the comfort of the pavement of the driveway, and was sitting, playing his guitar, in the grass behind the apple trees next to the hot pink rose bush. So Jaimie and I followed suit. We brought our chairs down there as well. My nephew Patrick brought his truck and a selection of other toys. Mom brought a blanket, upon which I laid down and dozed off for a few. It might have been the first time in living in that house for over 30 years that we had sat down there as a family. How was that even possible? Does television have that much of an impact on our lives? Or had habit and routine caused us we to miss this little patch of paradise less than a hundred feet from our kitchen table.

As we were leaving for the day, my mom handed Jaimie a Tupperware full of Applesauce cake. When I opened the Tupperware the next night, it smelled like my childhood. It’s the only way to describe it. My mother’s Applesauce Cake. I think she made it with applesauce and put the word in the title so she wouldn’t feel bad about eating it for breakfast.

It’s a Bundt Cake, made with Yellow Cake mix and moistened with applesauce. Then a swirl of cinnamon runs through out the center. There’s a crust of some sort as well. I’m pretty sure it’s brown sugar.

Last night, as we were watching Ozark, we cracked it open. Jaimie had cracked it open earlier in the day, so that last sentence should read: “we cracked open what was left.”

And there it was…the smell of my youth. It brought back the most wonderful memories. I made her pause the show as I took a walk down memory lane. I talked about mom’s Applesauce Cake, her Chocolate Sour-cream Cake. I talked about her banana bread and Christmases with chocolate covered pretzels and chocolate covered peanut butter crackers. I talked about her peach cobbler, and the night my friend John Weeks busted my ex-wife, in a drunken stupor, eating the peach cobbler with a giant wooden spoon straight out of the pan.

The thing is, my mom would never call herself a great cook. She didn’t really enjoy it. But she tried. She made the effort. And because of that, I have these deep, rich memories that are activated simply by opening up a Tupperware.

I’m curious to see what memories are created with this social distancing. What sitting in the drive way is going to do to our subconscious? What the smell of a hot pink roses will do to baby Patrick twenty years from now.

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