Today when I was walking up the stairs to my office I passed by an older man slowly walking down to the first floor. He smelled exactly like my grandfather. I think it was his shaving cream. I walked the next flight up, carrying my laptop bag and my purse and a latte, and I was crying a little (god, do I ever miss both of my grandfathers) but I couldn’t wipe my eyes because my hands were full, and I couldn’t even get a sleeve to my eyes. When I got to the top of the stairs, I set everything down and stood there for a second, breathing in one last breath of that smell, wishing I knew what, exactly, it was.
It’s so powerful, isn’t it? That smell memory? It’s different than any other memory trigger for me. It doesn’t matter where I am, if a smell comes along that reminds me of something I miss, I totally lose track of where I am and I’m completely lost and useless and sunk in memories. It just barely edges out music on the heartstrings factor.
I’ve been listening to and reading lots of stories lately: The Sun, Bust, and The East Village Inky all came in the mail within a couple of days of each other; and I’ve been listening to podcasts of my boyfriend’s show, and also stories from The Moth ( I CANNOT recommend this highly enough — please go and listen. It’s super kick-ass!) and The Sound of Young America. And I can see how it can sometimes be enough to not bother with making your own stories when there are so so many other good ones to absorb. That’s foolish, of course, and as wonderful as it is to hear someone else tell a great story, there is nothing quite like going out and making one of your own.
Tonight I took Lex shopping for school clothes. He starts middle school soon, and he’s really excited. He got red and black checkerboard Vans, black skinny jeans, a couple pair of regular jeans, shorts, a Who tshirt, a seatbelt belt, and a few other things. When we left Hot Topic (where I felt old as dirt but also kinda liked a lot of what they were selling) he grabbed my hand and we walked through the mall, talking about how fun it was going to be for him to be in a new school. To be older. It’s the same mall that I went shopping at for school clothes with my mom. I even got Vans one year — though I was in high school, not jr high. And we walked through the crowds of people, carrying the bags holding his new clothes and shoes and he looked at me from under that long hair of his and he smiled and said he was having a great time. I was, too. I’m so nervous about this next phase of his life. I mean, seriously, I *just* mastered the care and feeding of small kids and now he’s a big kid. And, he’s much more outgoing and popular than I ever was, which leaves me feeling ill equipped to help him navigate the social life he’s going to have. I mean, I can tell him about how it’s not wise to sit up against a brick wall at lunch, because the jocks will throw chocolate milk cartons that will explode above your head, but I don’t know how to help him be a popular kid other than take him shopping at the cool stores and talk him into the red and black shoes over the shiny black and grey ones. These days I think that he is teaching me more than I am teaching him. We’re stumbling forward like colts, and even though I should be steady by now, I am just as wobbly as he is. I’m so grateful that he will still hold my hand.