Where I live, the school year has just started. My children are grown, so I’m a bit removed from that event nowadays, but still it stirs the memory pot. During my school days the year started after Labor Day, so the real memory kickoff will come a couple of weeks from now, on the first morning with just the right slant of light and crispness to the air. Soon after, the leaves will turn and begin to fall.
There’s nothing stronger than the scent of autumn leaves crushed underfoot to take me back to the Octobers of my youth. I’m instantly transported back, scuffing my shoes through the red, gold, and brown strewn across the sidewalks on my way home from school. It’s always a sunny afternoon and I take my time, as though I’m trying to hold on to every ray before the gray days of winter set in.
Scientists say scent is the strongest link to memory, and I believe it. With one whiff of a crayon box, I’m six-years-old again. I’m wielding a fat orange crayon and trying my best to stay insides the lines of the duck’s beak. It’s lunchtime, Friday, and with the odor of fish sandwiches drifting from the cafeteria, we line up, but first stop is the restroom, where I’m greeted with the combined smells of castile soap and wet brown paper towels. Ah, sweet memories.
I associate more than smells with school, of course. The faint peppermint taste of white paste, the murmur of students shuffling though polished hallways, and the tap, scratch, and squeak of chalk on the blackboard. Speaking of blackboards—the old-fashioned slate kind—does anyone else remember the man who came around to refresh the lines? Do you remember the paint smelling like bananas? I know. I’m old, but every year around this time, it’s easy to recall the child again.
Do you have a fond school memory to share?