Strange Confessions: The memory triggers in my brain are strongest when working in union with my sense of smell, and lately I’ve found some of my favorite bouquets.
One summer, when I was younger, we went swimming regularly at a friend’s of a friend’s of my parents. All of us kids swam all day long, sliding and jumping the day through. It was always a hot summer in Salt Lake City and when swimming was done it was always nice to find a cool place to rest. This person’s house, who I long forgot, was dark and cool, and had one of the first VCRs I ever seen as well as cable television. She let us take a shower before we settled down in the dark basement to watch tv and videos all night. In her shower was a bottle of Aussie shampoo. Aussie was a new and expensive product, so I felt fancy using it in my hair. As we hung out later eating junk food and watching tv, I could still smell that shampoo in my hair. This smell built into my brain the memory of friendship, luxury, comfort and savory snacks. Aussie changed the formula of it’s main product, and I lost the ability to get those memories back from the occasions I could convince my mom to buy it.
Once in a while someone would walk by me and I would smell this memory trigger. I asked people what they put in their hair, sometimes even strangers, and incredibly no one knew. How could people forget what they put in their hair? Some of them remembered it was an Aussie product, but most were oblivious. Really? I thought maybe they stockpiled the old shampoo and kept it secret from those who may want to take it from them. I would think, maybe I’m not smelling it right, and I’d go to the store and open up every Aussie product, drinking in it’s now flowery essence. None of them were the correct smell. Two weeks ago, I got a haircut at a local superstore, and thought of this smell for some reason. I went to the aisle and sniffed the familiar open purple bottles. I decided to try the scent of the hairspray, and wonder of wonders, it was the stinkin’ memory smell; the lovely smell that brought me back to cool, comfortable childhood. I am not a regular user of hairspray and I do not want to overuse the stuff, making the memory lose it’s power, so it is below the sink, hidden until I need a boost of childhood energy.
Last week we were at a friend’s house for a bit of holiday celebration when I discovered a memory smell I forgot. We went to the Nature’s Pantry for a bit of shopping for items we can’t get in West Plains. Our friends bought a salt substitute I’ve seen around once in a while, and she said it was the best stuff to put on popcorn. When we got back to their house and she pulled out her old bottle of the stuff. I opened it up, and I was transported to the trailer of my Papa by the smell. Spending my young weekends at my grandparents house, my Nana and Papa, was the highlight of my youth. Cousins and food and fun is something I thought would last forever. I looked forward to having kids and spending time at their grandparents house running in, out, through and all around the home and neighborhood, but alas, families change. My Papa would have the trailer he built himself sitting in the yard and us kids would sometimes play in it. It smelled of some spice that I never knew; until last week. It was Spike, a now natural salt substitute sold in health food stores. It’s funny how something that has been around for a long time becomes popular with the health food nuts, then they can sell it at what they want. The Spike company is all like, “Those health food crazies will pay anything that has a label marked ‘natural.'” So today I was at the health food store and paid $3.29 for a bottle of terrific memories. Can you put a price on a bottle full of memories? For me, it doesn’t matter. I’ll pay whatever you want if it makes me remember my carefree childhood. I love my Papa and miss him since he died about ten years ago, and this spice will be forever in my cabinet.
Strange Confessions: I have never been in a fight, be it wrestling, pushing or fisticuffs with another human of the male persuasion that was not my brother or a best friend and I messing around. That is not to say I haven’t had the opportunity to take someone to the mattresses, I just chose some reason to get out of a mess myself or another has tried to get me into. Why fight, when you can love? Well, my experience in that area was sadly lacking as well. I mean, the Foreigner song, “I Want To Know What Love Is” made me weep in my little fourteen year face as I lay awake at night despairing of my lack of deeply emotional connections with the opposite sex. Teenagery really leaves a mark on you, in ways of thinking that everything else seemed so important. I look at the area of my life as a way to connect with these young rowdys nowadays: Connecting with the remembrances of the past helps us to bond with the future.
Anyways… back to the wars that could have been: The first time someone gave me the go ahead and try it nod, was when my best friend and I were wandering the tough streets of suburban Murray, Utah. Some young and most likely orphan toughs got in our path, challenging us with looks and upturned chin thrusts. I was giddy inside with nervous tension. We had run into these feral mongrels previously, but never equally teamed. Their threats were met swiftly and surely with a head-lock from my taller and more sure of himself best buddy, Greg. They ran off, pants sagging, ears severely boxed, crying for their mommies, who they had forgotten they lost in their moment of humiliation. Greg was the coolest. We were bestest for what seemed a time that would never end. I’m currently friends with Greg on that one site, but he never does anything on it. He has gone on to be one awesome adult: featured in Forbes and Business Weekly, making a mountain of moolah being the Vice President or Chief Financial Officer of one up-and-coming company or another, working his way up the ladder of incredible responsibility that I so sorely missed because I acted slowly. I decided to hide behind this future financial guru when the ruffians attacked, which was probably my loss. Oh well, no regrets. I have my wife, my daughters, and a forever future no one can take away.
Second time I was challenged was when I was a Freshman at Judge Memorial Catholic High School. Ah yes, I see your confusion. There would never be a challenge that would result in a fight at a Catholic High School. But, I am here to set you straight. Conflict and yes, sometimes fights would happen in Catholic schools almost as much as in those, gasp, public schools. Nuns and priests were scary, but they were not omnipresent. They couldn’t slap your hands with rulers and/or pointers when you were getting out of line all the time, and I was challenged with nary a religious authority figure in sight on this ominous day. It was a dude named Tom. Tom was someone I went to St. Vincent’s with and he was okay back in those times although he did have a pasty white complexion, light grey eyes, the lightest, thinnest blonde hair you ever did see on a boy, which had the craziest cow-lick in the class. Now, Tom may have been made fun of a bit in St. Vincent’s but I never did commence the teasing, but I may have stood in the background thinking it was a bit funny, grinning my stupid little grin, being happy it wasn’t me. Tom may have been a bit of a rival for my best friends regards, so I stood with those who took the opportunity to harass him. As a young lad, I never defended the tormented for I was a scrawny one, but my participation in said tormentation of Tom brings me a shame that I wish I could go back and fix. As high school began, I had to show myself as one who could fit in, and humor was my option of choice to promote the coolness that I knew was inside me. On the back steps outside of the Freshman hall I saw Tom as an available point of mockery. Easy, yes, but what a little snit I was. Not recalling my words, which really were hesitant because of the unsurety of myself since hiding behind future financial man, I just tried to show myself as someone clever. Tom challenged me: several times, to a battle of hands and face. I laughed and joked it off. Cowardly little weasel I was, and not even giving it up for love. Good thing I failed out of Judge, just to avoid any further humiliation at the hands of myself. But, as you know I give myself plenty of chances for self-humiliation.
Hiding. Laughing it off. Those were the tools of my avoidance. I used them well.
As I entered into the world of my pre-adultness that was retail, new challenges awaited me. Around this time I had several people tell me that they hated me when they first met me, but then they got to know me, and then they finally saw the real me, and liked it. I believe that may be the case now, only that is something you don’t tell people when you are a real adult. You either avoid or you force yourself to pretend you like. They pretend to like you so long that they forget that they should be trying to know you, and relationships get stagnant. In the retail world I may have run into one of my most famous potential enemies. He was from Brazil. He didn’t speak English goodly. He worked in my same department. We didn’t talk, but the time we did he was very aggressive, angry even. I didn’t understand him, but could read human nature well enough to see I didn’t agree with his vision of what I was supposed to be. Eventually I got out of him that he didn’t like me and wanted to beat me up. I couldn’t understand why and tried to get it out of him. He wouldn’t work it out. He told me there was no chance for us to resolve whatever it was that made me rub him wrong. I said I wasn’t going to fight him. He gave me an angry look and stalked off. I was genuinely frightened. What was wrong with me? How did I spark such anger in our foreign friend? Most of all, how was I going to get out of someone messing up my dapper aspect? I don’t know how I got out of this, but this fine Brazilian gentleman disappeared like mist. Was it all a dream? My face was safe once again.
There was this show my wife watched that I hated: Judging Amy. I would be sitting with her while she viewed the stories. I caught on that the relationships the people in this program were so utterly complicated it hurt to listen. I complained to her about that it wasn’t real. People wouldn’t hold on to something that was almost always so impossible to work through. I understand that these complications were a week to week sort of deal, and it may have kept the viewers hooked. It was tiring slogging through these weekly gorgefests of saturated difficulties among humans. I think I may have wanted to watch an hour of dogs barking at each other than watch this regularly. Thankfully my wife and my relationship is easy… well, not easy, just not full of drama, like the show. One show I do remember, was this one dude’s wife was going to pottery classes, where sexy French-man was the instructor, and he was making the moves on wife. Arguments ensued between husband and wife regarding his banality and lack of passion when it came to fighting for their relationship. Wife soon agreed to sexy French-man’s offer of private pottery perusing to perfection. Husband discovers said encounters and storms Frenchy’s apartment door, pounding furiously, determinedly and surely. Husband’s clenched fist greets sexy French face as door runs agape. Wife’s eyes glitter amorously at husband’s new found ferocity for feeling the force of his love for wife. Ah! Relationship difficulty cured by angry husband’s closed fist. Husband and wife: a thing worth fighting for.
For a while I wondered if my wife wondered about my lack of forcefulness when it came to fist meeting face. But, I hope she knows that I would give it my all in defending what we have; even if it came to me wrestling aggressor to the ground and sitting on threat until “Uncle” was cried.
Strange Confessions: Late at night, while having a sleepover at my best friends house, we’d listen to a song that would make us think the communists were coming for us through the windows, and we’d fight back with imagined incendiary devices and machine guns.
This best friend was one of the longest friendships I had formed in my younger years. Let’s call him Garth. We became friends in first grade and it went on strong through sixth grade, and waned a bit in the last couple of years at St. Vincents, then disappeared in high school, (see previous Strange Confession). He was a really good friend, had a really good family, although I remember seeing a sticker on his sister’s mirror in her room that said, “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.” It was the first time I had seen that kind of scary stuff in print, and she made me a bit nervous although she was hardly ever around; she was much older than us. I actually heard that she has her own family now and lives in the very same house they grew up in.
We’d stay up late and play this Flinstone’s game, where we made our very own cards that were missing, and laughed our heads off at our own artwork. I’d see him off and on for years and I’d bring up these pleasantly remembered moments, and eventually he’d show his boredom in my recital of years gone by, and tell me I’d always mention this when we’d see each other. I felt ashamed for remembering the past fondly. By this time he had gotten very successful in fact even now I can google him and find he has a profile listed in Forbes. I can see his salary listed and everything.
Anyway, the other favored activity was listening to the Rocky soundtrack. This was back when every boy’s favorite movie was Rocky and the inspiring music made feel invincible. We’d run up and down the basement, arms in the air, like Rocky, punching the air, quick jump roping, and training, like he did. But then there was this spooky song that came on. It made us a little frightened and opened up our imagination to believe that communists were attacking the U.S. and more specifically coming through the high windows in Garth’s basement. We’d pretend to lob grenades through the windows and shoot anyone we saw with our machine guns.
I spoke before in previous Strange Confessions, (see my Facebook StrangerInRebellion page) about being influenced as a child of things that weren’t necessarily in our range of vision. I can’t imagine how we were educated to understand that the communists were after us at that age. Rocky came out in ’76, which meant I was around 7-9 years old when we play acted this scenario. I mean, Red Dawn, an extremely fear driven movie about a Russian attack on U.S. soil, didn’t come out until ’84. That show scared me in a certain understanding that only comes with being 14 years old.
Yet there we were, being scared by a song and translating that into a personal attack on our homes. Was it Garth who had this idea? Was it me? Strange to think, as I look at my own children’s play: ponies, dragons, drawing, and imagined worlds of fantasy. Sure, maybe they have some idea of the threats that are in this world, perhaps more my oldest than the one who is seven years old now. Or maybe that idea only comes in to boys minds. I’m sure that’s not true. Perhaps it is the way we are raising our children: to understand that there is evil in the world, but eventually God is the victor and there is nothing to fear now. Yes, yes, I was raised a Catholic. But that relationship was a Sunday only thing for us, and there wasn’t much discussion about God at the dinner table, save for the rarely remembered moment to pray before; “Bless O Lord and these thy gifts for which we are about to receive, from thy bounty of Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
I love remembering my childhood, love my family, the friendships, the good times, the bad. For that, what I’ve said before, is what makes me who I am today. I want my children to remember fondly their childhood for the same reasons. Not be bitter because they didn’t have their own room, or had to move from friends, or remember that they were very much different from other kids their age. It is difficult. Especially when I don’t know if I should answer a friend who states on his facebook page, that all religious people should be sent to a planet without oxygen, so they can discuss things there. Or another, that vaguely states that they are sick of religious people shoving their ideals down other people’s throats. I suppose the rights of a “religious” person, their desire to see a world of another vision, is not welcome anywhere. That is what we, my wife and I, need to train our children to know. That their ideas will be hated, that their morals will be mocked, that if they want to have a business they better be prepared to fight a battle they might not foresee; the right to refuse someone services because of their way of life.
These Strange Confessions, many times have a mind of their own. I did not expect this one to go this way. But I suppose it was inevitable sometime. This introspective inspection of my past will reveal the harsh conditions of my children’s possible future. And again it reminds me of my current favorite verse: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” I have had to remind myself this, when I read some of my friends facebook posts, or when I see those friends who consider us “Persona non grata”, that these people are not against me per se, but what is coming against us is the forces of this dark world, and knowing that is what comforts me. That perhaps I’m doing something right, or that God is helping us to grow through tough things. Not that this compares with what other Christians face in the world, I can’t even compare my struggles with others who face death for claiming the name of Christ.
May I be strong in the face of these coming trials and train my children to know hope. The true hope that only comes through knowing that this world is not all. That all that this world can offer you may feel like it’s fulfilling you, and it does a very good job in this generation, but ultimately it has no eternal purpose. From the very beginning of my remembrances, I knew that there was more to this life than living and dying, and how can my God make my best friends not realize this. In that instance, I believe, it is all a choice. Thank you God for drawing me near you, for giving me an eternal perspective, a vulnerability that make me know whatever I do will never be enough in whatever enterprises I take on. Thank You!
Strange Confessions: When I was younger I believed I had the ability to transport myself to another dimension through the sheer power of my will.
Have you ever heard of people having tunnel vision? Well, I think I had some version of that when I was in grade school. You see, I’d be sitting in class staring at the teacher or the blackboard and whatever I was staring at would start to move away from me. My perception would completely change. It seemed as though my soul, or my inner self, the essence of who I was would shrink somehow. and I would find myself somehow looking through the lens of my own eyes. Everything was very far away, with a fuzziness surrounding what I saw or touched. I could feel myself but I felt very large and very distant. My teeth would click together and distant thunder would rumble in my brain. My hands were aeons away from me. I could feel them at the end of these enormous arms, I could control them, touch finger tip to thumb tip and it was miles and days away. The focus seemed to be my hands and mouth and especially my vision. But, it also gave me this sick feeling down in the pit of my stomach and my head would start to swim. I could break out of this experience anytime I wanted. Just close my eyes and shake my head and I’d be back to normal. But, when it did come, and I began staring again I’d go back. With enough shaking my head and not focusing on anything, it would eventually go away for good. Until the next time.
The worst is when it happened at night. I couldn’t look around in the dark or look at different things to shake the feeling, and it made me very uncomfortable. I would press my fists into my eyes and move around a lot, feeling myself rubbing against the sheets: these things would shake the feelings.
I began to think there was a purpose in this. I thought I was extra special when I was a kid: like I was going to be abducted by aliens or be able to go into other worlds, because some power that was in control of those things in the universe chose me to have this power. I thought that this was a gateway for me: to another world, another dimension, and if I could hold it long enough… I… would… get there.
So, whenever I started experiencing this feeling, I tried to go as far as I could. The more I stared the farther I got from myself, the more distressing it was upon me. Slightly jerking my eyes or blinking would take me back a tinge, but I’d constantly stare to try to accomplish the goal of entering unexplored worlds! I never could hold it for more than a couple of minutes. It was agonizing to be so close to the prize, yet so disappointed in myself that my will wasn’t strong enough.
Eventually this went away. I would feel it rarely in high school and college, but I figured it was just some remnant of brain damage or the magic mocking me in what I forever would not experience.
I had forgotten all about it, until last night. Yes, it came on me last night and I was so disconcerted that I groaned and twisted, seeing if my wife was aware of my agony, so I could explain this childhood aberration. It was odd.
But it reminded me of the fact that I will be going into another world someday. For, you see, this world is not my home. By sheer power of will I will not experience it, but it is by the will of God.
Lately I’ve been going through a spiritual upheaval you could say. I believed I was on the verge of a breakthrough if only I could mend some errors of my past. One thing did not go as planned. In fact, my greatest fear came about: my actions only made things worse. I fretted and mourned lost relationships, lost breakthroughs. I couldn’t talk to God. He seemed to be very far away. I was unable to connect with Him. But two very great things happened to me that God showed me He was still looking out for me, and wanted me to experience great joy, even through my failure. One was serving people in a poor area of Missouri. It was awesome! And I hope to be able to talk about it to the congregation this coming Sunday. The other was being a leader at a youth camp. I experienced such joy at worshiping my God, my Creator, my Rock, my Salvation; through being with the kids, through reading His word, through the great music that three great musician youth put on. I am so blessed that I can not help but bless His name.
Even through the difficulties that this major move in my life has brought about, I am so thankful that He has grown me. I will ever praise Him, even when others my mock me, mock my God: I will ever praise Him.