Strange to remember that particular sound after all this time. I've tried to remember other notable sounds from my life and I often draw a blank. The bell signaling the end of class in high school. The sound of my favorite elementary teacher's voice. But Grandma's front door closing: I can still hear that.
At night lately when I can't sleep I close my eyes and think about different times of my life. Not just think about them, but relive them as they happened. Not noteworthy events, the everyday stuff. The stuff I would never have thought I'd be looking back on so filled with nostalgia I can't breathe. Wait, that's the rhinitis of pregnancy. But still. Lots of nostalgia.
I'll experience pulling up to the house Grandma and Grandpa lived in for fifty years. The house my mom was born and raised in. I walk through the door, hear it slam. I see their "davenport" and the "Fruit Room" where Grandma kept all her canned peaches and jams. I can still smell the fruit room. Musty and tangy; not a bad odor, a scent of food and comfort and love.
My mind blows itself with its ability to recall things like smells. Remembering a smell from my childhood is as close to 'going home' as I'll ever get, considering my childhood home and my grandparents' house are now occupied by strangers making their own smells.
I continue past the davenport into the kitchen where I can still see Grandma stirring a soup of some kind. A soup she will surely force-feed me even if I tell her I'm not hungry. I walk down the hall, past the living room, more museum than room for living, the blue and green shag carpeting squeaking beneath my feet. A telltale squeak that would give me and my brothers away any time we slept over at Grandma's and attempted to sneak out of bed to spy. Spying on two elderly people watching the ten o'clock news is about as exciting as watching paint dry but, at the time, it was a sensational adventure. We learned to time our expeditions with the striking of the grandfather clock, the strikes masking the carpet squeaks. Genius.
Looking back at your childhood is a bewildering thing. Because you experienced all these things as a child you still view them now through child's eyes. But have you ever tried to pluck a memory from the tree of your life, discard the childhood goggles and really examine the thing from your adult perspective? What you discover can be startling: in good ways and bad.
Remembering the way your grandma was, the funny things she said, the expressions: and then you realize that grandma was racist. But she was so nice! She gave you chocolate chip cookies or popcorn balls from her deep freeze every time you came over! Or you remember the neighbor lady who was so cool, always giving candy. Then your adult self remembers her dirty house, stacks and stacks of newspapers, cat crap embedded in the carpet - and you wonder what was really going on there. The cool candy lady was actually the creepy hoarder. My third grade teacher, Mr. Johnson was so nice, he always rubbed me gently on my back when looking over my assignment. Wait. He always rubbed me gently on my back when looking over my assignment.
That kind of thing. That last one didn't happen to me but it happened to someone I know. As an adult they were reflecting on their favorite elementary school teacher and realized he used to rub her backside inappropriately while helping her with assignments.
But I've gone negative and I didn't mean to. Mostly I take positive trips: remembering the kindnesses of people I no longer see, I walk through my childhood home, my elementary school, the homes of friends, drives down old neighborhood I spent so much time playing in. It make me wonder what my kids will remember about our lives now. The porch swing, the playroom with the big couch they use to play a game called "Junkyard." The nooks and crannies of the backyard, piling on the bed and watching a movie.
If you close your eyes to relive a mundane experience of your youth, what's the first thing that comes to mind?