Sensing A Memory

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

Is there a perfect moment you want to relive? I’m not talking about the monumental events that are obvious. It’s the small ones that, at the time, don’t seem significant. Those times come back at random moments, and you have to ask where they came from. Small, trivial, insignificant moments that you would live over and over again if you could.

Yeah, I have a few of those.

I was looking at a grocery store flyer— gotta get those deals— and I saw blue cheese was on sale. It’s the kind food that brings out strong reactions. You either love it or hate it. Just now, you either said yum or gagged. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground when it comes to mouldy dairy products.

Fair enough, it’s pungent and covered in bluish-green goo. It’s literally rotting before our eyes. Who was the first person to see that and think, mm, that’s should go in my mouth? Then again, the same thing could be said for just about everything we eat.

Who watched a chicken crap out an egg and popped it into a frying pan? What about the person who watched a calf suckle a cow’s udder and decided to give that a try? And some fruits and vegetables look so monstrous they could be an aliens offspring, but sure, take a bite. Moulding cheese? I mean, it’s not the strangest thing humanity has ever consumed.

There I was, scrolling through the discounts, and this cheesy delight popped up. I can’t remember the last time I ate blue cheese. It could’ve been back in the day when I ate meat. Blue cheese butter on top of a steak? Mm, yes, please. I mean, no, save the animals, eat an avocado.

If that’s your thing. Who am I to tell you what to eat? Nope, I’m not one of those people who stands on a mountain with binoculars and a megaphone. Are you really going to eat that? What about the sanctity of life? Do you even care about the environment? Oh my God, just let people eat their burgers in peace.

But I digress. 

Stinky cheese isn’t a staple part of my diet, and it’s not something I crave. I don’t even like cheese that much— don’t come for me— and I’m sure if life wasn’t so messed up right now, I wouldn’t have noticed it. At any other time, I would’ve kept scrolling through the deals until I found something useful.

Come on cheap toothpaste! Somebody blow on the dice. I need some luck in my life. Oo, watermelon is on sale. Well, that is delightful. Sweet melon or stinky cheese? Choices, choices, why does it have to be so hard?

I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and I think it’s making me feel nostalgic. Do you go through this as well? Life becomes extraordinarily hard, dark, and heavy. It reaches a point where you can’t handle it anymore. You’re exhausted even though you slept for eight hours last night. It still feels like you didn’t get enough sleep, does it.

At some point, there’s a bit of a regression that takes place. You start watching shows you loved when you were a kid. You crave foods from a time when life was simpler and happier. Old memories resurface, and you spend a lot of time reminiscing. You find yourself saying, remember when, a lot.

Or is that just me?

I’ve been watching a lot of old shows and movies. Going back to stories that remind me of a time when life wasn’t that bad. For a little while, I’m transported out of my current situation and into one that made me smile. Most of them are silly, and if I listed the titles, you’d roll your eyes. Maybe you’d question my taste in entertainment as much as my connoisseurship of cheeses.

In my defence, the smelly cheese thing is directly linked to a specific sense memory. It’s a memory I’d forgotten about. It was such a small moment many, many, years ago. In the grand scheme of life, it would be classified as insignificant. When I look at everything I’ve done, experienced, and seen? This was such a fleeting moment and I’m surprised my brain retained it.

I was seven, six, years old? I can’t even remember how old I was. I was little, I remember that much, and it was the first time my family travelled to England. We spent the first night there at a small hotel near the city centre in London. It wasn’t fancy or grand. We never stayed in anything other than budget. (I come by my frugality, honestly.) It was, however, on the road the Queen took to go someplace.

I don’t remember where she was going or why it was happening, but it was good timing. We huddled by the window in our hotel room and watched the parade of pomp make its way down the street. Union Jacks were waved vigorously, and people gathered to clap and cheer. The royal carriage rolled by, and it was quite the thing to see. It might’ve been a once in a lifetime sort of thing for us.

It was so impressive to my young, innocent eyes. I‘d never seen anything like it. It was very exciting until the long day of travel caught up to two tiny tummies. I remember my brother and I became violently ill shortly after the golden carriage rounded the bend. Our stomaches evacuated their contents over and over again. Soon we’d forgotten all about the Queen of England- my apologies, your majesty- and the awe-inspiring display of grandiosity.

Thankfully, whatever caused the upset soon vanished, and we were officially on holiday. It was the first vacation we’d taken since immigrating to Canada, and it was the first time we would see our grandparents in a few years. My maternal grandparents met us there, and we rented a canal boat. We were going to spend a few weeks cramped up together. Oh, I couldn’t wait. It was going to be the best thing ever!

But first, there was some stinky cheese to eat. 

The next morning, feeling so much better, my dad and I went down to the lobby. For some reason, my mom and brother were taking longer to get ready. I can’t remember why, but it meant we were on our own. A rare thing, indeed.

I know this will sound fancy, but it really wasn’t. We never stayed in hotels with any kind of star rating system. However, this one had the fanciest thing I’d ever seen. In the lobby, they had a cheese tray with crackers and fruit. It was there for anyone to nibble on. Wait, we could grab a snack in the lobby? Why isn’t this a thing everywhere?

What was I saying about fancy? Oo la la.

My dad grabbed a plate and a selection of nibbles to share. We sat together, enjoy the savoury goodness, and chatted while we waited. I stuck with the familiar cheddars and Swiss. My dad has a more adventurous palate so, he went with the weird cheeses that made my nose curl and my brow furrow in confusion and ew.

Why are you eating that one? It looks like it’s gone off.

It hasn’t gone off. It’s been well-aged.

Mommy threw out well-aged bread then.

Cheese and bread are different. Try some.

If there’s one phrase my dad used the most, it was, try it. Try it, you might like it. You don’t know until you try it. Try picking stuff up before saying you say you can’t find it. Just try it. Famous last words?

I’m pickier and more cautious about everything in my life. Especially when it’s something that will go into my body. If I’m going to be damaged by something, I’d like to know the extent of the carnage. Is that too much to ask for? I think not, my friend.

But on this occasion, I was feeling braver. Perhaps I was inhabited by the spirit of adventure. We’d been on a plane, travelled internationally, waved at the Queen and vomited into a foreign toilet. It had barely been twenty-four hours, and we’d accomplished so much. Why not, eh? Go on, give it a try. You might like it.

Dad put a small piece of cheese on a cracker, and I bit my bottom lip. Was this a good idea? Perhaps an exorcist should be called. This spirit of adventure might be taking things too far. But he’s my dad. He would do me wrong. Besides, if I don’t like it, I can always spit it out onto his pants. Ah, to be a kid and get away with being super gross.

I leaned into my dad as I took a bite of the cheese. Curious. Peculiar. Kind of bitter but also a little salty. Creamy, I like creamy. Hm, this isn’t half bad. And Dad’s smiling at me as he rubbed my back. Yep, I think I like this stuff.

It’s been a long time since I felt like that. Life, especially over the last two months, has been messy and complicated. There have been so many falls from great heights. Losses, grief, fear and attempts to regain some semblance of normal. I’ve been putting a lot of energy into changing my life, the way I’m living it right now, but so far, everything I try just bottoms out.

Then I was scrolling through that flier online, and I saw the deal. For a moment, a brief moment, I smiled for the first time in days. I felt that warmth in my stomach, a bubble of laughter rose up my throat, and I sighed with contented amusement. 

What a silly memory? Where did that come from? God, I wish I could go back to that day and relive that moment. 

It’s a silly memory, and I don’t know if my dad remembers it. It was also a special moment where I felt loved and safe. It was just the two of us eating cheese in a hotel lobby, but it was more than that. There was a warmth in my stomach that had nothing to do with jet lag or mouldy cheese. It was a genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.

That cheese tasting is one of my perfect moments, and it ranks right up there with a few others. Standing on a dock in the middle of nowhere, watching an eagle fish in the bay, is another. Witnessing the salmon run with my grandparents when I was little. Coffee with my brother between college classes. Picking my mom up after work and talking about stupid shit while we drove home.

There’s so much beauty and untapped power in those moments. We let them go by too quickly and easily. It’s not until we’re drowning in emotions, stress, and negativity that they come back with an oomph. I’d give anything to go back to those moments and be more present in them. Commit every detail to memory. Hold on to it for a lot longer.

But I’m feeling incredibly nostalgic right now so, I’m going to get some stinky cheese and crackers. Hopefully, my sense memory will let me relieve that perfect moment again, and this time I’ll try to hold on to it. It’s good for my mental health right now, and it’s one way I can be a little kinder to myself.


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