SENSE OF CHILDHOOD

So many scents I could imagine
from visions in my memory,
days removed from years long past.
They go by faster now, curiously –

furiously trying to keep track
and hearkening back to a childhood
home. Three generations left their mark
and the stark reality remains,

it is no longer ours. But the years
had been kind and I find myself
reminiscing and kissing fond thoughts
lightly. Brightly color flashes

rehashed for posterity.
With clarity, I remember my grandfather,
immigrant of Polish decent,
sent to a new land to dream of becoming

one of his new compatriots;
assimilating to new customs and language
in an age where opportunity knocks
to build a life and a community.

A stoic figure, cigar clenched between
gold teeth and leathery lips,
a man of the land in a new place,
aromatic vapors wafting around his face.

My grandmother, American born,
sworn to marry and care for the man
whom her recently deceased sister had married.
She carried on to raise her “niece-daughter”,

and my mother and her brother
with the flavorful flare of traditional
Polish fare my grandfather had missed
from the old country. No sundry task,

the kitchen was the heart of their home,
contributing a fragrance it hasn’t seen since
my mother, through recipes passed down
had found their way into our childhood home.

At my grandmother’s passing, she was viewed
in our parlor, a pallor coloring my grandfather’s face,
and our place I am told, would hold the odor of cigars and whiskey,
perfumes and death, with us wondering why Grandma

never woke up. It was tough to recall all the unanswered
questions of an early age, with no sage advice,
to suffice a curious child. But through it all, my grandfather
retained his gilded smile and after a while we grew

to accept her absence. Getting a chance to spend time
with him, I’m certain he has influenced me through
his work ethic and profound patriotism for his adopted home.
Every day was a workday. Although retired he was mired

in his garden and yard. He worked hard and I helped
and felt how much I wanted to be like him.
He would smell like the soil in which he toiled,
so I would learn, and burnt leaves and tree branches.

And “by chance”, I would find treasures of silver
and folded paper where I had none. When work was done,
we’d sit on his bench and admire our handiwork.
And those moments would lurk in my memory all these years.

I recall the tears when his aromatic stogie left unattended,
would end up between the cushions on his couch,
rendering it burnt beyond usefulness, and sending my nose
to the same fate. After that day, my ability to smell went away

(and stays vacated to this day). So many scents
I would imagine from visions in my memory.
Days removed from years long past, they go by faster.
Now, it’s no wonder how curiosity brings me home!

© Walter J. Wojtanik – 2016

Prompted by dVerse Poets Pub – Tuesday Poetics: Empire of Scents

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12 thoughts on “SENSE OF CHILDHOOD

  1. Yes, time is fleeting indeed. We leave it to the next generation without even trying. It’s good that we can have memories to keep and warm us in later years. Lovely poem, Walter~

  2. This is a joy to read, and, no doubt, for you, it was a joy to remember. I love how scent transports us back in memories and that Polish cooking…yum.

  3. Such a rich heritage of stories to draw upon…..really enjoyed reading this. You made it all come so alive! I read this after your other one, so, yes, now I know that you did indeed lose your sense of smell 😉

  4. Wonderful poem about love, family, scents – my family home was sold in 1980 about 120 years after it had been built. I wonder if the “new” people sometimes get whiffs of meals or Jean Nate from my aunts or Old Spice from my dad. Byt the time mama sold it, we all of us were dead or scattered. I removed several boxes of books from the library and some of my grandmother’s cast iron pans and pots. It is sad to look back at it all and see it gone. I can see how you lost your sense of smell. I hope it comes back for you have smells of your own life to enjoy. This was truly a most enjoyable read of your family.

  5. rendering it burnt beyond usefulness, and sending my nose
    to the same fate. After that day, my ability to smell went away

    Losing sense of smell in a good way. It can happen to anyone but memories of good times with one’s family lingers on!

    Hank

  6. So many vivid memories and a beautiful share of your family history. I could feel the strong connection with your grandfather and see him smiling even through the difficult times.

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