Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Scents of My Yesterdays

OK so a few weeks ago my dad was preaching and he told a story of my Grandmother, Edith Gibson.  There I e-said it.  UGH.  Excuse me but just typing her name makes me cry.  ANYHOOOOO.... "MaEdy" (crying again, dangit) was a funny, busy for no reason, West Indian woman who married my father's grandfather.  My father and uncles were placed in a boys' home after his mother passed away.  She was the family member who searched until she found them and she took on the responsibility to raise 3 knuckleheads in the heart of NYC.  She is the reason my father is who he is and, for that, I am eternally grateful. 

She graced heaven with her presence when I was 10 years old and, let me just tell you, that tiny woman forever transformed my life...

I remember how she would cook and not eat until everyone was just about done.  Almost like she wanted to watch her food warm our souls.... AHHHHH curry...MmMmMMm.  I can still smell the choking scent of gas as we entered the hall of her o-so-typical NY apartment... I remember the only walls of that place were to divide her bedroom and bathroom from visitors' view; open floorplan. Like. Her. Heart. And her kitchen :)

To this day, when I smell that gas-y, somebody-cooked-something-yesterday-and-it's-still-lingering-today smell, I think of her.  When I reach for the curry in my cabinet, I think of her... When I fix everyone's plate and lose my appetite (for a little) because I'm filled with the joy seeing my family eat food I MADE, I think of her... An integral piece to my childhood puzzle is my MaEdy... Our bonding over episodes of Arsenio Hall (we'd WOO WOO WOO fist pump together)... The way she'd tuck the side of her quilt under the mattress so I'd "sleep safe"... How her kitchen decor consisted of an industrial shelf with her pots piled neatly according to their function... The miracle of her little arms grabbing (and lifting) those cast iron pots...

I appreciate the scents of my childhood.  They allow me to close my eyes and, if only for a second, be somewhere else.  They serve as my daily escapes...

Some of the scents of my yesterdays include:

- Coffee... Reminds me of Sunday mornings when Daddy would brew a pot.  1 whiff and I can hear the rustling of newspaper and Daddy's church shoes clicking around the kitchen and Mommy singing along to Bobby Jones Gospel while curling her hair.

- Red Door perfume... My Mommy's scent of choice.  She used to wear it so much that even AFTER you wash her clothes you still smell it... I can smell it a MILE away and catch myself actually LOOKING for her sometimes BECAUSE, I mean, CLEARLY no one else knows about it, right? LOL.

- Lemon Sweet tea... My Mom used to make old school tea where she put the jug (you know the glass one with the yellow top, spout and lemons all over it) with the lemons still in it to sit in the sun so the flavors could "settle on it."  That tea is right up there with Popsicles in the freezer downstairs for my Summer memories. I'd check it often so I could let her know when it was brown and I always wanted the FIRST and the LAST cups of that tea 'cuz... well, those were the 2 BEST cups to get.

- Beans... Cooking all day... with the bones of yummy dinners before bubbling inside the pot for flavor. I LOVE BEANS and their smell reminds me of SO many dinners... I can hear my dad starting his rhyme after we were all patting our tummies because we were STUFFED to the brim, "beans, beans good for your heart...  the more you eat the more you fart!"  Mom usually smacked his arm and my brothers and I would giggle...

- Bleach... I'm a bleach girl, you already know!  The smell of bleach reminds me of Saturday mornings when EVERYONE had to get up and get moving.  Mom was always up early mixing up her cleaning concoction of bleach and dish washing liquid.  Sometimes I wash a load of whites just to calm my soul.  Funny how waking up Saturdays would make me so grumpy and now I'm excited for family clean days - LOL.

I'm sure there are many more... These are just some that I hope I never forget... Scents of my yesterdays make me remember to make new scents for my today. 

MaEdy left a LEGACY of scents for me to remember... I promised I'd never forget some of the funny things MaEdy would say like her response when I asked about the lines (or wrinkles) on her face,

"don't worry chil', you'll get some too... These are from my good laughs!" 

I laugh out loud... until I pee a little as often as I can.

Or how she called those long-time-no-see moments,

"another country heard from!"

I promised myself at 10 that I'd never forget anything about MaEdy and... well, the evidence of being human has proven that to be impossible... When I dream, I can no longer see the details of her face... but I can STILL smell and almost taste her food almost 20 years later... I want to leave a legacy of smells that soothe my family's souls one day too...

So, let's reminisce together... What are the scents of your yesterdays? 



  1. Beautiful! This is such a tear jerker. Takes me back to washing walls and cooking with my mom and aunts in the kitchen. Thanks do much for the opportunity to remember what's important Family.

  2. I love this boo! I totally get where you are coming and I both know the scents that our family members can leave behind. I randomly smell NYC apartments all the time and I think of my Abuelita! This is so on point! Love you and your smells! (Vanilla makes you pop into my head! You and those dang-on candles)!

  3. Tabby, you really brought back some memories here. I think smells bring back memories more poignantly than pictures. Peas & Rice, stew fish, curry goat, baked lamb, fried plantains, and fish cakes. Aromas that would make your mouth water. Some of the other smells were moth balls, and pine sol. You and your brothers were like medicine to her. Your wild play and inquisitive searching gave her a jolt each time I took you to visit. I didn't understand it then but I do now. Thanks for the "smellemories."


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