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Age: 56-65

Loves Me All the Time

A sailboat slides by on the bay. The smell of oily Sea and Ski suntan lotion fills the air. It’s a hot summer day and the Kona Kai Club bustles with adults, teens and tots. I’m in trouble. My brother hit me and I had to chase him around the pool and my dad yelled at me to sit down. I knew running was against the rules, but I couldn’t help it. I cried and said I wanted to go home but Dad said no. Now I’m glued to my towel, it’s too noisy and too hot to sleep and I just want to escape. 

My stupid brother does a cannonball into the pool and splashes me. He bobs up, sticks out his tongue and crosses his eyes. I don’t take the bait and he finally swims away. I check Dad who’s lighting a cigarette, sneak away and tiptoe along the concrete over to the deserted Children’s Pool in a shady corner. 

The sun sparkles off the turquoise circle through tall palm trees. My small feet wade down the steps to the center of the pool and I bend my knees so that the cool water comes almost up to my chin. The sharp chlorine smell tickles my nose and I know if I dunk my head under and swim around for a while my blonde hair will turn icky green again. 
I clap my hands twice and swish them through the shiny blue water. Then close my eyes and begin to sing one of my father’s favorite songs. 

Sugar in the morning. Sugar in the evening. Sugar at suppertime. 
Be my little sugar and love me all the time.

As I turn in slow circles, the metal drain massages my bare feet and my voice echoes off the edge of the pool. When he sings that song to me, I know he’s happy. If he hasn’t had too many beers and isn’t slurring his words, I believe that he really does love me all the time.

I repeat the song again and continue in circles until I hear his voice call, “Jilliebeaner, it’s time to go!” I look up and see he’s smiling at me holding my towel open and I know then the words to the song are true.

- Jill G. Hall

Scents Memory

“Those pancakes are burning! Can’t you smell them?” 

In fact I cannot, as my mate well knows. Ditto garlic sizzling in hot sesame oil, and spice cake just out of the oven. Likewise the Mexican marigolds in the garden, their foliage bruised by a tossing wind, and the cold, wet-cardboard smell of a rare rainy day. Too the cedarn atmosphere within a stand of redwoods—my favorite fragrance—and the aura of heat blowing in from the east: a Mississippi of air.

I savor these only in memory. My sense of smell faded about a decade ago, a sign (I found out later) of progressing Parkinson’s disease. It was a loss so gradual and unobtrusive that I didn’t notice until the sense was quite gone. Because they’re so closely linked, my sense of taste is crippled as well: I can detect only saltiness, sweetness, or the burn of capsaicin (which causes the heat you feel when eating chili peppers, and which I’m not even sure is a flavor). The smell and taste sensations appear to me as phantoms—brain-invented illusions without basis or cause—in the most incongruous situations. Lingering in bed in the morning, dozing and waking in short cycles, I’ll catch the salty splatter of bay water and the sinus-stinging smoke from cheap gas churning in the violent wake of the ski boat my family had when I was a teenager. Working the odorless decomposed granite that answers for soil in my vegetable plot, my mouth waters from the smell of popping corn or the taste of hot chocolate.

It’s hard not to be bitter over what I’ve lost: two-fifths of my interface with the world (though, being honest, I’d rather live without taste and smell than sight and hearing). I try to focus on and be grateful for the mechanism, whatever it is, that still allows me to relish the greasy aroma of fat rendered from browning bacon, or the sharp, astringent perfume of lavender soap, even if the former comes during a performance of act two of La Boheme and the latter while driving to the DMV to renew my license. Most of all I treasure the odd, disorienting moments when my senses suddenly return, and I breathe in the incense of the week-old garbage I’m carrying out to the bin. Seconds later, my burden is again odorless, blank as ice, and my memory book one glorious, fragrant chapter richer.

- Jim Brega

George Washington School, circa 1960

Sawdust, waxy crayons, and sweaty boys with Brylcreemed hair
A dank cloak room full of cubbies and hooks, battered metal lunch boxes all in a line
Sturdy clunky saddle shoes protect busy feet, sagging thin socks rimmed in lace
Legs cross Indian style on sleek waxed linoleum, hands fold, eyes straight, lips purse
Squeaky bottoms slip on polished wood chairs, teddy bear name plates taped to each desk
Peppermint paste sticks to chubby fingers
Cinnamon graham crackers dunk in miniature cartons of warm milk
Thick graphite pencils scribble on dittoed worksheets, the odor fading as they pass down the rows, pages still damp with a chemical smell
Slight whiff of teacher’s floral-scented perfume as she bends down to correct “borrows” and “carries”
Fat clumsy hands clutch stubby dull scissors jaggedly cutting stiff bright paper
Dusty chalk on an old green board, piles of yellow flakes billow out
Freshly mixed paint drips, powder and water bubbling thick in used cottage cheese containers
Flimsy pastel paper clipped to a towering easel awaits the first stroke from a clean brush
Stale chlorine rises as water leaks out of a rusted faucet, white powdered baking soda soap wet, hardens as it dries in lumps
Rough brown paper towels like compressed bark stick and tear as they wipe wet hands
Rainbow colors swirl into brown as they suck down the moldy drain
Smooth pages of glossy books, the plastic odor of a new doll
Dick, Jane and little Sally, baffling book people with their stilted dialogue and perfect mommy
George Washington Elementary School, a universe of possibilities

- Carol Schnaubelt

A Bygone Fashion

In the early 1960s, when the fog rolled in off the ocean onto Point Loma, and the mornings were too damp and chilly to play outside, I loved to snuggle and hide in my mother’s fur closet. Opening one of the master bedroom closet doors with my small hands, I’d tug aside the heavy coats to lift the hidden brass latch, releasing the smell of pine. I’d crawl into the small space and close the door behind me. The fact that it was as dark as a cave inside and verboten made it even more exciting and scary. In the quiet, I’d rub my nose into the deep fur of my mother’s mink coat and a musty primal scent with a tinge of cigarette smoke would permeate my being. Then I’d caress the white fox fur, a fluff of tenderness. I avoided though the one with beady-eyed heads on either end. 

Although I couldn’t make them out in the blackness, I knew what each looked like from seeing them wrapped around my mother’s shoulders on her way to a cocktail party or charity ball. Her hair done up just so with a bright red lipstick smile. A favorite was the lime green dress with the slits over the bust that made her look like Marilyn Monroe, especially when smoking a cigarette or waving a martini glass. I couldn’t wait until I was a big girl and could wear one of those furs to a party too. 

A few years ago they were passed down to me, but I never got to sport them in public. It is forbidden by our society now to wear fur. Before I gave them away I put my nose into the mink stole again to smell the musty scent one last time, and with tears in my eyes, memories of my mother’s beauty during that era came rushing back to me again.

- Jill G. Hall