July 4, 2011 by Heather
Today at high noon I went for a jog. A mile out, a mile back. Ran the first mile, walked the majority of the second because I had to pee and the bouncing of the jogging was not helping. So I walked with some serious attitude (thanks to Lady Gaga and J-Lo) and worked up quite a nasty sweat, seeing as how it was a blazing one million degrees outside.
It’s funny how memories get stuck, and sometimes lost, in between the file folders of our brain. Yes, I like to think of my brain as a sort of filing cabinet/Rolodex, much like the one my mom has that she uses to organize her recipes in alphabetical order. Except my Brain Rolodex is not that organized, rather, it is kind of all over the place. Hence the stuck memories. And every now and again, something will happen that shakes a certain memory loose and brings it to the forefront of my mind. A certain smell, a stranger’s t-shirt, a random act of kindness.
Today on my run I caught a whiff of fresh asphalt, and just like that I was 6 years old, staring out the window of my bedroom on Winbrook Circle. I remember a couple of summers before that particular moment when two things happened: 1. I got a new bike with white tires, and 2. They paved over the gravel road with hot black asphalt. Those two things, believe it or not, are not a great combination. Granted, the new pavement made for a much smoother ride on my fancy new set of wheels. However, when I took her out for an inaugural spin and got black sticky stuff all over the prickly white tires, I was more than a little bummed. Gosh that memory is so vivid. Turning out of our driveway and onto the new road, and dirtying my brand spanking new bike just like that. I remember stopping in the middle of the road, trying to decide if I should just keep going or turn back. How could I have been so careless? Oh well. I’m sure I eventually got over it.
Now, every time I smell asphalt, I am immediately transported back to that house, that neighborhood, that wonderfully adventurous and carefree phase of life and all of the memories of it that chose to stay in my Brain Rolodex. Memories are a funny thing. For the most part we don’t really have much control over what stays and what goes, mentally. I know sometimes I’ll remember something so random, and yet so vividly that it is almost embarrassing that it chose to bury itself in the walls of my mind. Nothing bad (for the most part), just super random and (sometimes) meaningless. There are things I wish I could forget, and there are things I wish I could remember. Silly Brain Rolodex.
So today when I smelled the hot pavement beneath my feet, I was, appropriately enough, 6 or 7 years old and sitting in my room on the night of July 4th, whatever year that was. I had my own room, my own space, and it was so cool. I remember my bed was in this little alcove thing in the far left corner and there were shelves above my bed. Red curtains that, I think, my mom made. I had a white desk with shiny red handles on the drawers, and a matching desk chair with red cushions. There was a poster above my desk with three dalmatians on it wearing bowties. “All dressed up and no spot to go.” Clever.
We lived really close to the park where they did the city fireworks show. I don’t know why on that particular year we didn’t go to the park and watch it live, who knows. Hannah had probably slapped me and gotten in trouble and ruined it for everyone. Heh, heh. Anyways, I remember sitting on my bed watching the fireworks out my window. What a good view I had. I mean they were right there. I might have had a friend there with me, I can’t remember. What I do remember are the totally awesome fireworks. It was the first time (and only time, now that I think about it) I had seen the kind that go up into the sky and BOOM open up into an actual shape and then fizzle out into a sparkly shower, leaving a smoke shadow of whatever image it made. I remember a cowboy hat, a pencil, and a guitar. It was amazing. I don’t know who comes up with the shapes at the fireworks factory, but even at the tender age of 6 or 7, I remember my cynically sarcastic brain thinking, Why would they have a firework in the shape of a pencil?
Haha, not much has changed, even though so very much has changed.
Happy Independence Day!
In honor of all of the fireworks shows out there tonight: