First, a peek into the limited but earnest perspective of my teenage self.
Outside the home where I spent much of my childhood there was a tall flowering bush, a tree, really, that put forth spring blossoms with a fragrance I adored. I don’t remember very much about what those flowers looked like, but I remember how wonderful they smelled. I also remember realizing that the spring of my senior year in high school would likely be the last time I would enjoy breathing in their amazing perfume. Once I left for college, that pleasure would be lost to me—I would be away in new surroundings, spending each spring far from home, bereft of the flowering tree of my youth.
My parents sold that home several years later, and I thought again of leaving those blossoms behind. I also realized that because I didn’t even know what kind of plant produced the flowers, I couldn’t hope to find them anytime in the future, no matter where I looked.
There are many graver issues in life, even in my life, but I have thought back on the scent of those flowers for a couple of reasons. Scents, more than other stimuli, have a way of evoking memories mightily. Catching a whiff of a substance from our childhood can transport us back to that time faster than any other thing.
Then, too, those flowers and their fragrance were so vivid, so heady, and so good at symbolizing my coming losses—I was going away, leaving my family, my childhood, all that I knew and loved. What’s more, the future was undefined, vague, hard to picture. It was an abstraction to me.
Decades later, I find myself enjoying the spring in Spain, where we have lived the first half of each of the last six years. As I rode my bike under the overhanging branches of a long line of orange trees yesterday, I was surrounded by the scent of their spring blossoms. The fragrance was almost, almost, the same as that of the flowers from my childhood home. It was glorious!
Thinking back to my teenage self, surrounded by the scent of flowers and the pathos of things about to be lost, it takes my breath away. Not in a million years would I have predicted that in 2019 I would be living on the Mediterranean, running errands and planning to meet my husband after he finished teaching the last music video class of the week, ready to head to a concert near the old city.
The fragrance of the flowers is almost the same—the view of my future life almost entirely unimagined.
The movie What’s Up Doc? is the screwball comedy of my childhood (watched often in the house with the flowering tree), the one whose lines we quote more than others. In the banquet scene, Judy Maxwell and Howard Banister have a side conversation about what’s about to happen. Howard is worried about the immediate future, and Judy, a master of disruption, relishes the chance to see how it will all unfold. He insists they must leave immediately, but she objects to missing all “the good stuff that’s coming.”
What follows includes screams, a lot of purse-swinging, and the forcible removal of the real Miss Eunice Burns, heels leaving wavy drag-marks on the polished floor—definitely eventful. The time that has passed since I got ready to go off to college has been eventful, too, with plenty of good, a certain amount of painful and difficult, a little bit of bad, though no wavy drag-marks.
From that long-ago springtime vantage point among the sweet-smelling flowers, I was unable to see “the good stuff that’s coming.”
As for the place I am now in my life, with access to the fragrance of orange blossoms, that’s still true. I don’t know what’s coming. I suspect it will be a mix, as it has been in the past. But I definitely don’t want to miss the good stuff that’s coming!
[Images: the family archive, ar.wikipedia.org, El Guapo x 2, youtube]