Sometimes I think about a place and the memory is so vivid it feels like I was just there. I can smell the smells and hear the sounds and remember everything about it, at least for a minute or two.
I had a memory experience just the other day. It kind of came about in a strange way, so bear with me.
My mom is from Spain, and in her blog the other day, she wrote about not being too interested in seeing the film Twelve Years a Slave because it wasn't in her culture or her history. Fair enough, to each her own. I was thinking about my mom's childhood and her young adulthood there in Barcelona. My mom lived in a beautiful apartment on the Calle Roca y Batlle. The apartment was on the first floor and there was a terraced yard in the back.
When we went to visit, my sister and I got to stay in the bedroom with the doors that opened out to the yard. In the yard, there was a little room that had the washing machine and a big concrete patio. There were concrete steps that went up to a grassy area, but it was all overgrown and kind of wild up there. I remember that there were red geraniums and trees.
My grandparents employed a woman who seemed extremely old to me as a housekeeper. I can't remember her name, only that she was very small and wrinkly and had a very loud voice. She referred to my sister and I as "las reinas de la casa" (the queens of the house). Other than that, I don't think I understood much of what she said at all.
My memory is of this little old cleaning lady outside in the laundry room taking care of the laundry: putting clothes in the little machine and hanging my grandfather's shirts out on the line to dry. I remember playing a game with a ball where I would toss the ball against the wall while singing a little song in Spanish. The song was the directions on how to toss the ball - like you tossed it with the right hand, or you had to catch the ball off the wall while standing on one leg or turning in a circle. I don't remember the words right now, but I might be able to recall them sometime. I don't think I knew the words, it was all memory and phonics. It was a fun way to pass the time.
I also remember playing "store" up in the grassy part of the yard and using geranium leaves as the food we were selling. My grandmother didn't shop in a grocery store. She went to a butcher shop for the meat for each meal, usually buying only enough for the day. She went to a panaderia, a bread store, to get a fresh baked loaf of bread for the day. There was a little convenience-type store at the bottom of the street where we would buy water and other little miscellaneous things. She carried a mesh bag with her when she went shopping and would put her purchases in the bag. She never bought more than she could carry, of course. They didn't have a car, so she would walk to the various shops. I thought it was awesome. I loved how the shops would wrap everything up. Nothing was pre-packaged. You saw some chicken that you wanted, you told the butcher and he wrapped it up in paper and wrote how much it cost on the package and you paid at the end of the counter. Same with the bread, same with everything.
When we played store, we would weigh out our leaves or twigs or flowers and get some paper and wrap it up and count our pesetas and do it over and over. I still remember the smell of the geranium leaves. I love that smell to this day. My favorite geranium leaves are the ones that are dark green and have a brown stripe around the edge. Do you know what I mean?
During my memory, I could feel the geranium leaves in my hand, how they are soft and have a little bit of hairs or something on them and that distinctive smell. I remembered how rough the stairs were and how slick the concrete patio was when the old woman hung the shirts to dry and they dripped on the concrete, the water trailing to the drain.
Isn't it funny and strange the things you can remember sometimes?