Mississippi smells and sounds like my childhood. I wish I could use some sort of media tool to share what I mean, only I think you already know. There are scents I encounter that resonate with some long ago memory, and when I smell them, I can’t help but think back to the days of summer and of playing outside from sunup to sundown, in what seems to be a long forgotten right of passage for a lot of kids. When I was growing up, my mother never saw me or my brother, all day long.
We would explore the woods, the same woods we played in most of our lives, but during the summer, it was different. We followed the same old creek beds, and climbed the same old trees, only summertime made it seem more fun. Sometimes in the evening, we’d build a campfire and roast hotdogs and marshmallows. We stole mason jars from the kitchen because there were lightning bugs to be caught. We sat on our porch steps, eating slices of watermelon and listened to the whippoorwills at dusk.
This morning I was on my run, heading down Old Highway 4. Running in Mississippi is a heady experience for me. Aside from seeing deer, a cottontail, and what looked like a Mountain Bluebird, I also recognized a lot of the same scents from back when I was growing up. Honeysuckle, the blackberries – which are early because of the heat I suppose – the smell of certain trees (cedar, pine, and magnolia). Last night I heard a whippoorwill, the first, I think, in about thirty years or more.
Around the house here, which is set back from the road quite a ways and surrounded by massive oaks, black walnut trees and pines, there is an abundance of the usual bird and bug noises. There’s meadowlarks, wrens, and sparrows, as well as cicadas, but it’s also the pond and the frogs competing with one another at night, along with crickets, that remind me of night time when I was younger. My brother and I used to sleep with our windows open sometimes, just to hear these nocturnal noises which put us to sleep. (And would keep me awake now)
Sometimes I forget, living where I do in a more urban setting, that these scents and sounds still exist. Oh sure, we’ve been having a great time back in our more citified home seeing the lightning bugs have returned. Honestly, it seems like it’s been years since we’ve had them blinking and winking at us from under the canopies of our backyard trees. And sure, I still catch a whiff of honeysuckle, magnolia and gardenia, and our own trees are also filled with various birds and birdsong, but there’s more asphalt in our neighborhood, more concrete and houses, less chance of experiencing such a variety from nature.
Here in Mississippi, we’re surrounded by nothing but a long, winding dirt drive, five hundred acres of farmland and all that comes with it. Including, somehow, a chance to experience once again, a bit of my youth.
Where do you go to recapture just a little bit of your childhood?