I Smelled A Smell That Reminded Me Of…
The other day I made me some Lipton Tea. I typically make this by putting the tea bag in the cup, cover the bottom of the cup with sugar and, when the teakettle on the stove whistles, pour the boiling water into the cup. This released a cloud of steam that carries with it a smell and a memory.
This particular smell reminded me of Kaysie. When I was young, several things happened to me that were tragic. Some real and some only to an eleven year old. My brother had been murdered, my mother and father had gotten divorced and my mother had moved the family from Hawai’i to California. Instead of being put into the 6th grade as I should have been i was put in the 5th grade. I had a very heavy Hawai’ian accent. I spoke the Kine, the pidgen english that the locals in Hawai’i spoke and so was put into English as a second language class because no one understood what the heck I was saying. I was a lost little girl, fairly bewildered at what was going on and friendless. Except for Kaysie.
Kaysie was an ancient woman. At least to me. When I think back on it I believe that Kaysie was probably in her sixties, like I said, ancient. She was a short curly haired German woman. Kaysie spent all her days inside wearing a faded blue housecoat and matching slippers. You could find her sitting at the little table that barely fit into her apartment’s kitchen. The table was one of those blue speckled topped steel ringed tables, the kind you would see in a 1950’s diner. She had two matching chairs but the vinyl had cracked on both and there was mismatching tape crisscrossing on the seats, keeping them together. She sat at that table and played solitaire or did crosswords out of those magazines you picked up at the checkout stand at the pharmacy.
Kaysie smoked Kent cigarettes and drank lipton tea with lots of sugar. When I would go over there she would let me smoke those cigarettes and drink her tea. She treated me as an equal. She listened to my stories and gave me advice. She understood me I thought. Not like my mom. Kaysie let me smoke. My mom found me smoking and beat the hell out of me with a power cord.
Kaysie never judged me. Ever.
Kaysie also had numbers tattooed on her arm. I thought she had wrote them on her arm with magic marker but when I asked I learned about the Nazi’s and World War II from a concentration camp survivor. I learned much actually and I honestly think if my mother had known what we discussed she would freak. Kaysie answered all my questions honestly and openly.
So why did I tell you all this. Well I guess, I had not thought of Kaysie in many years. Last I knew she had moved to a home for the elderly. Someone that important in my life slipped from my memories, until I smelled a smell. Then I was 11,sitting with my ass sticking to a vinyl covered chair, smoking Kents and asking what she did when she had her period in a concentration camp. (No, you really do not want to know).
I am told that smells are intimately linked to the parts of the brain that process emotion and associative learning. That our olfactory bulb in our brain, which sorts sensation into perception, is part of the limbic system. The Limbic System system includes the amygdala and hippocampus, which are vital to our behavior, mood and memory. That is why when we smell something we have a memory associated with it. The smell of a certain perfume and your brain shows you a picture of your aunt. Or in my case, the smell of sugary Lipton tea reminded me of Kaysie. It was a bit of a memory and one that I am glad I retrieved.