A simple sound, smell, action or flavor — a hug from a grandbaby, my wife’s smile on our wedding day or a “drank and pack of nabs” — can activate memories of long ago.
Drank and nabs? Here in the South, the word drank is not limited to the past tense of the irregular verb drink. It also includes nouns, usually nonalcoholic beverages. Nabs refers to a pack of Nabisco crackers, usually peanut-butter flavored.
This snack duo awakens more memories than taste buds.
Speaking of irregular verbs, why can’t the rules for irregular verbs be more regular? I mean, why is it correct to say “drink, drank, drunk,” “sink, sank, sunk,” or “stink, stank, stunk,” but not “think, thank, thunk”? I ponder such conundrums when I’m fishing, writing this column or walking in the woods.
It is no enigma, however, why my heart smiles when I recall those Saturdays when Papa would cease work on his cattle farm in Thomas County to take my brother and me fishing. Sometimes, before we got down to the serious business of catching (and later telling) whoppers, he’d take us by his brother’s gas station for a snack, which almost always meant “a drank and pack of nabs.”
I liked Uncle Ralph’s store, not only for the RCs and nabs, but because he always had some kind of wild baby critter he’d rescued from somebody’s dogs. It amazed him and Papa that those baby raccoons, opossums, rabbits, squirrels and a skunk would let me pet or feed them. The memory of Uncle Ralph’s menagerie is intertwined with the memory of my granddaddy’s favorite snack.
My sweetest memories are all connected to my five senses. I recently got a new set of hearing aids. That afternoon, I sat on my back porch as I always do before supper. Suddenly, I noticed the birds I always listened for were louder than I’d heard them in 21 years.
I suddenly was taken back to my early teens, sitting in a tree stand on a wintry morning. I was sipping Luzianne coffee as I tried to distinguish one morning bird’s song from another.
For those who’ve never tried it, Luzianne coffee consists of both coffee and chicory, which was used as a coffee substitute during the War Between the States. As a 13-year-old deer hunter, Daddy allowed me to take a thermos of his coffee, which I tried to mellow out with lots of cream and sugar.
I now keep another brand of Louisiana-style chicory-coffee, which my wife mixes with Folgers, but only on Saturday mornings when I have time to enjoy my coffee on the porch. The mockingbirds, mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, cardinals and woodpeckers love to tell me how good my coffee smells.
Frequently, my wife and I will drive out to Harris Neck Wildlife Preserve to walk the runway trails of the old Army Air Corps base. I open my pickup window to enjoy the sweet smell of myrtle and salty marsh. Sometimes, though, as we pass the entrance to the long, gravel driveways, I find a familiar foul odor that calls back old memories.
Similar to how they did where I grew up in Coastal North Carolina, folks in Coastal Georgia sometimes fill low spots in their driveways with oyster and clam shells.
For weeks after they’re shoveled in, these shells will stink to high heaven. But it’s an odor that reminds me of the fabulous oyster roasts I enjoyed as a boy or the delicious bowls of New England-style clam chowder my beloved sister used to make. I miss her a million times more than her chowder.
They say you should take time to stop and smell the roses. When you do, I suggest you allow the rose or whatever you smell, hear, taste, see or touch to bring back something or someone worth remembering.