The scent of a freshly-baked madeleine wakened such a torrent of memories for Proust that it resulted in one of the longest “books-whose-title-everyone-knows-but-few-have-read”, aka “A Remembrance of Things Past” or “In Search of a Lost Time”.
While a physical connection between the olfactory nerve and memory centers in the brain is proven, my synapses must have gotten crossed: scents conjure up neither goddesses or ghouls from the past. For me, sounds are the trigger.
We all have them: memories segregated from the society of ordinary memories for reasons that vary as widely as the population within a brick and mortar penitentiary. Some, because they are too dangerous, too disruptive of daily life by their ability to re-inflict pain. Others, usually also from childhood or early youth, are memories too pure or naive to circulate freely. The apartness is protective custody: free to wander, their innocence would be ridiculed like a traveler dressed in the fashion of another period walking the streets of today.
A few months ago, the chance playing of a song by a guitarist at a now-closed Greek restaurant sprung one of my oldest and most pure of memories from its oubliette and hustled it out into the equivalent of the middle of Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
The song, in the few minutes it lasted, took me on a backward journey of almost fifty years to my first love and that wholly Brazilian sentiment of saudade, which I once described as “…. a home-sickness, not just for one’s own home and family, but for the sounds, the vibrancy, the soul and heart of a place and culture. It is melancholy and yearning, happy memories and the living pain of remembrance: it is looking into one’s own eyes in a mirror and seeing what was left behind.”
I was glad to have been dining alone because tears welled up before I could stop them, yet also glad that I could still feel so much so fully and across such a distance.
IT was Somewhere My Love from the movie “Dr. Zhivago”. (She looked like Julie Christie as Lara…..)