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