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My heart is filled with childhood memories. There are some that fade with time and others that I love to rekindle, even after 30 years. My olfactory memory has remained virtually intact despite the years, no doubt thanks to the wonderful emotions associated with it. My grandmother’s house at 14 rue Orléans in Lévis is probably the place that holds my fondest childhood olfactory memories.
You’ve been gone a number of years now, Grandma, but a lot of wonderful things used to go on at your house. I remember summer afternoons when my parents would take me there. I was really little and would fall asleep in the back of the car. The drive seemed so long because I was so anxious to see you again.
The magic started just before we got there, just before we turned onto your street. The smell of the river and its motorboat exhaust would hit me first, preparing me for all the fun I would soon be enjoying. But it wasn’t until I smelled the aroma of fresh bread wafting out of the bakery that I knew for sure we had really arrived. Just before walking into the cheerful summer kitchen where you always greeted us, I never failed to get a whiff of the river and notice how the wind blew through the leaves of the big plum tree.
My grandmother’s summer kitchen was filled with a whole assortment of spices impatient to get out of their boxes. I would go back there today, if only to breathe in the myriad of aromas that would comfort my entire being. The air there was always cool and it always smelled good. Freshly picked strawberries laid out in big bowls on the table were covered with sugar, resembling beautiful red crystals ready to be devoured. And, to make us drool even more, straw-berry pies would be baking in the oven, giving off one of the most appetizing and comforting aromas there ever was.
Fall was also special in Grandma’s kitchen, because she would prepare her marvelous compotes and preserves to add a little warmth and comfort to our cold winters. The smell of apples, marinades, cinnamon, molasses, cloves, vinegar, and spices would flood the entire house as a prelude to the joy we would share as a family during the holidays.
These recollections are impossible for me to forget, because they are deeply ingrained in my memory and will remain with me the rest of my life. They are universal, because smells pass through the filter known as the heart. My own olfactory memories bring me a feeling of comfort. It felt so good to be at my grandparents’ house!
I wish you could see me today wearing your apron.
I feel bathed in the memories of fruit and spices–-and pure happiness! When I smell flowers, I remember how I would go and pay tribute to each and every one of the flowers in your garden when I came to see you in the summertime. All these wonderful aromas burned in my memory are part of the unique legacy you left me, and I thank you for them.