Childhood Memories and Thoughts on Parenting in a Difficult Time
By Anne McCarthy
Lately, I find myself pondering what memories my daughters will have of their childhood when these days of magic and play have become past. What will they remember of their Dad, of me, their grandparents, of family and friends we hold dear, of places we spend our time?
Or more specifically and in the spirit of the time: What will they remember of this strange episode we’re living through, where things fluctuate between feelings of paradise on the one hand—long wanders through the hills, family togetherness, morning to evening play outside— to a subtle but pervasive anxiety on the other.
All this raises yet other questions for me: Am I doing a good job at this parenting thing? Am I shouldering the burden for my children in a way that allows them to stay light and (relatively) worry-free in a time of crisis and isolation?
To ground myself, I think back to my own childhood—to my favorite memories of a time where someone else carried the weight of the world for me. For me the best way in are olfactory memories, those linked to very specific smells. Many of these memory triggers I know and seek, others are unexpected memory gifts, that instantly and out of nowhere transport me to a different time and place.
Growing up in Europe, where food is tradition, food is family and love, many of my triggers are of course food related: onion frying in butter is the quintessential “dinner is cooking” smell that conjures up feelings of comfort and memories of a family gathered to talk and eat (now add mushrooms to that, and we’re going places); bone broth simmering on my stove puts me right into my Oma’s kitchen where good food was always just a spoon away, served up with stories and laughter. Okay now I’m getting hungry…
Nature smells are of course the next big memory train ticket: apple blossoms, lilac, hay meadows, sweet grass and wet leaves, to only name a few of my very, very favorites. These scents I hold dear, they are my keys to a treasure chest of memories locked deep inside, waiting to be opened when I most need it: At times like now, that feel so surreal and strange, when grounding is needed to preserve my sanity.
Undoubtedly my kids will have other smells to guide them back: maybe rain and sage, woodsmoke, dusty juniper? Their bone broth scent memory will perhaps remind them of how I make them smell the pot and say “It smells just like Uroma’s kitchen” … who knows?
After going on that journey I feel much better. It seems as long as there is good food, ample time outdoors and love my kids will be just fine—filling their treasure chests not with a perfect parent or a perfect world, but instead with a deep sense of belonging: belonging to family, to community, to nature, to this Earth.
Now I’m off to my kitchen to cook up some memories and breathing much easier.
What smells trigger your favorite childhood memories?
What do you remember of times spend outdoors growing up? Have you ever climbed a tree? Picked berries? Waded a creek? Buried yourself in a pile of leaves? Remember what that smelled like? hmmm....
Wild Roots staff authors include Erin Boehme, Lia Grippo, CJ Cintas, Anne McCarthy, Tyler Starbard, Jenn Sepulveda, Heather Young, Amalia Smith Hale, Natalia Pareja...