The aroma of fresh-cut grass wafted up the incline, melding into the afternoon heat.
Competing scents swirled around me, blending then separating. From my left, I inhaled the crispness of the damp lawn. Drifting from my right was the delicious odor of homemade bread hot from my grandmother’s oven.
July was filled with unique smells, inhaled, forming memories remaining in my mind 65 years later.
Summer in southeast Oklahoma mixed freedom, boredom, peace, discovery, playing, and quietness into an explosive mosaic of olfactory remembrances. A colorful quilt sewn together by recalled fragrances and flashes of images from days lived by a girl child in the 1950s.
A surprising whiff and I’m rocketed to a time of being, not doing. A moment of youthful innocence unmarred by boundaries and rules. My grandparents were old, by my 12-year-old’s calendar. Grandmother, confined to a wheelchair because of childhood polio, was in her mid-60s, and granddad was 20 years older. They were active, involved, and alert, but both had abandoned interest in corralling this pre-teen and my younger sister who spent weeks each summer with our grandparents.
I favored my mother’s parents’ house, and my sibling bedded at our paternal grandmother’s home, located across town, eight blocks away. We spent little time at either house, roaming the worn paths of our favorite village, drifting from one street to another, meeting other youngsters, talking with strangers, investigating alleys and backyards.
What harm could come to two little girls entertaining themselves in a rural community, connected to the world by a radio and party-line phone service? The question was, no doubt, never asked. It was a different time when kids roamed and played and explored with limited adult supervision or interest.
Routine ruled the lives of these simple folks. Each month, grandmother would shift her body into a battery operated 3-wheel golf cart with hand controls and motor to a county building to retrieve government commodities: butter, cheese, flour, sugar, beans, and dried milk. These were the staples that helped the poor feed their family for 30 days if used with frugal care.
As aromas drifted through my consciousness, I watched my cousin push the mower through growth too thick for a 10-year-old to master. His shirtless upper body bronzed and shining with sweat in the mid-day heat, his bare feet cushioned by the chopped carpet of grass. Never complaining, he labored in silence, hoping a slice of warm bread covered in butter and a glass of sweet cherry Kool-Aid awaited him at the end of his obligating chore.
It was a Saturday, the day grandmother baked and my cuz mowed. I had dusted the house earlier, so my mandatory task was completed, and I had the rest of the day to roam or sit idly, laugh or be quiet, dream or interact. My choice.
Oh, the freedom of uncharted time.
Granddad’s soft snores hung in the air as he napped in the living room, and after lifting herself onto her daybed next to the window shaded by a gnarled tree, Grandmother’s breathing joined his to create a musical duet in peaceful sleep.
A lazy summer day in southeastern Oklahoma, a perfect time and place to make childhood memories.