August 18, 2005


Last night was odd, at least as far as the whole lucid-dreaming thing goes. For some reason, I ended up on a walking tour of my old neighborhood with my closest childhood friend. It's early enough that I'm still trying to snap out of it.

Reflection #1: The chlorine smell of the local neighborhood pool. For me it will be forever associated with salty potato chips and grease. I once jumped from the edge and caught my chin on the lip of the pool. My chin split right open. My parents and godparents drove me to the hospital and gave me a bag of potato chips to keep me distracted. I don't remember getting the five stitches but I sure do remember the potato chips. And the smell of chlorine.

Reflection #2: The cul-de-sac at the end of my street. The center was planted with one single, large tree surrounded by bushes. For some reason, it was always assumed to be haunted by all the neighborhood kids. Yet, it made a great place to hide...if you were brave enough to try.

Reflection #3: Waking up to an unsually cool morning for Texas, in the early spring, looking out the window and noticing the surreal sight of hundreds of hot air balloons floating over my neighborhood. My bed used to sit right up against the wall with a window right at head-level. I loved to be able to roll over and look out at the neighborhood. I slept with my stereo on, cassette tapes rolling with the auto-reverse turned on. Yes' Yours Is No Disgrace was playing in the background.

Reflection #4: The mysteries of the bayou. The Buffalo Bayou was a ten minute bike ride away from my house. It was surrounded by woods and seemed so mysterious. There were abandoned structures, uncharted paths and a general sense of mystery that was probably more attributable to our ages than the bayou itself.

And you? What stands out in your memories when you think about your childhood and the place you grew up?

Posted by Chris at August 18, 2005 8:22 AM

Standing out in my memory is the fact that, on the road I grew up on... the trees met over the road in the middle... forming a tunnel :) and a feeling of protectiveness when riding my bike, walking with my grandparents (miss them dearly) and the smell of those trees and woods in the spring and fall, the way they looked like a crystal city after an ice storm-
How few houses there were....... ah the country.

Posted by: stephanie at August 18, 2005 8:39 AM

Hm, there was a large shrub in my neighborhood that was said to inhabited not by a ghost, but by bats. I can't imagine where we got that idea.

Posted by: Fraulein N at August 18, 2005 9:10 AM

salt and split open wound... great combo :)

Chlorine reminds me of workouts for swim team and teaching munchkins swimming lessons.

I think the smell of Arroz con Leche (akin to rice pudding), Spanish soap and Secret Powder Fresh (particularly aerosol) will ALWAYS remind me of my Abuela (grandma).

and the now park ChristyCove... it will always be (muddy) lake ChristyCove (from the moonsoon season in Phoenix) in my heart. That and the place I started an interest in geology which involved me filling up the garage with quartz rocks sure they were worth something.

Posted by: stinkerbell at August 18, 2005 9:17 AM

Ivory soap and Doublemint gum remind me of one of my grandfathers.

I remember playing in the "forest" behind my house. It was a stand of trees that bordered a long row of houses on my road. Driving by now, I can see right through it to the field that it skirts, but when I was little I thought it was deep enough to get lost in.

Lilacs remind me of waking up on summer vacation and my other grandfather.

Posted by: Melissa at August 18, 2005 9:57 AM

A park at the end of the street. It was only a large area of grass with a basket ball goal on one end, but it had trees. Trees that I got my first kiss under.

Posted by: Queen of Ass at August 18, 2005 10:35 AM

Merle Norman makeup, and Tabu perfume. Remind me of my Mom.
I just recently posted some of my childhood on my site..of course not as eloquently as you.

Posted by: Angelia at August 18, 2005 10:36 AM

Friday evenings, when my dad came home from work to completely relax, listen to loud music, and sit on the garden with my mom while they watched my brother and I play, and waited for their take out food order. I still listen to that music and it brings back the most comforting memories of my childhood.
PS.Awesome picture.

Posted by: ava at August 18, 2005 10:40 AM

I will always love the smell of fresh cut grass. from april to october you smelled that all the time in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was awesome.

And for some reason Halloween stands out a lot. Like how we used to be able to dress up and go to school, and then have a party. and how the streets were then filled from about 2 pm till midnight with trick or treating kids.

Posted by: Tammy at August 18, 2005 10:43 AM

I will always love the smell of fresh cut grass. from april to october you smelled that all the time in the neighborhood I grew up in. It was awesome.

And for some reason Halloween stands out a lot. Like how we used to be able to dress up and go to school, and then have a party. and how the streets were then filled from about 2 pm till midnight with trick or treating kids.

Posted by: Tammy at August 18, 2005 10:43 AM

I was an Air Force brat, and a lot of my childhood memories revolve around traveling to and from the places I grew up - the endless cornfields of Nebraska, towering storm clouds over the Oklahoma plains, the fantastic nachos at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, saying goodbye to my St. Bernard who was my constant companion during my time in England, the mountains of Alaska. Funny that you should post on this topic - got an email yesterday from one of my best friends back in high school, who I haven't heard from in many, many years. Brought back a lot of great memories.

Posted by: Jason at August 18, 2005 10:56 AM

Playing with the kids in my Grandma's neighbourhood - making leaf forts and playing on a gigantic swingset (the industrial school playground type) that somebody had actually installed in their backyard.

(It's cool to hear about Buffalo Bayou - I spent 10 years of my adult life in Houston.)

Posted by: Heather at August 18, 2005 11:05 AM

A large tree in our backyard figured into my childhood a lot. So much so that the name of the book I'm writing is called The Tree. Strong memories. Some good, a lot bad.
It's kind of strange to read how trees affected other peoples childhood, I guess we're all a bunch of elves heh.

Posted by: dragonlady474 at August 18, 2005 11:10 AM

I love that photo--very cool perspective.

Posted by: Polichick at August 18, 2005 11:11 AM

I have so many because we lived many places.

I remember snow days in Boston, taking the garbage can lids to the huge hill behind our house and sledding down over and over and over again, until our clothes were wet and we had to go home to change. We kept coming out until we ran out of dry clothes.

I remember my first day of school (first grade) in Charleston, SC at Catholic school, and feeling so important in my uniform with my pleated skirt and saddle shoes. The school was right behind our house, just through some woods, and I felt so comforted knowing that I could see our house from my classroom window.

So many more, but this comment would be epic if I shared them all.

Posted by: donna at August 18, 2005 11:20 AM

We grew up in several different states, so my memories are segmented into The New York Years, The Vermont Years, The Virginia Years, etc. The New York Years were wonderful, and we would climb through the stumps in the lilac bushes pretending we were jungle explorers, run around trying to launch plastic kites into the wind, catch bugs in grass lined jars and try to keep them for pets. The Vermont Years were harder, but we still had fun flying down the hill of our dirt road on bicycles with our feet dragging along either side for balance, shrieking with delight until we were inevitably launched off to the side by a stone in the road that we hadn't seen. In the Virginia Years (we were only there for three months, but it felt like years) we would take long walks through the development we'd moved to, astonished that so much nature could still fit into a place that looked so crowded with houses. The states that we lived in served as demarcations for the memories we made, making it easier for us to pin a memory down to a specific year now. But they also served to mark the stages of our lives and lent their own character to the way that we lived in each of them.

Posted by: Laura GF at August 18, 2005 11:32 AM

the sound of sprinklers.. in colorado, everyone had built in sprinklers that connected to irrigation water. i love the sound of sprinklers. and the sound of air conditioning turning on. we don't have a/c in seattle, but we did in colorado, oklahoma, california, tx and az. [ok, i've lived a lot of places.]

Certain types of weather remind me of places, although it would be hard for me to pin point why, exactly. Sometimes, I stand outside here, in Seattle, and think, "this weather makes me think of Tulsa in the spring." I love that feeling, because it makes me feel like I've travelled somewhere, without leaving my home.

The markers that smell like food, of course. The smell of crayons. The texture of butcher paper. Elmer's glue. Cherry pie reminds me of the pies my grandma made with cherries from her white cherry tree out back. No pie can beat it. Vinegar makes me think of dying easter eggs.

The sound of a stand up bass being played, cokes with cherries in them, cigarette smoke, warm laundry that has been washed with bleach, red velvet and gold tassels, fried chicken and double mint gum make me think of my grand parents motel.

Really, I could play this game all day.

Posted by: jodi at August 18, 2005 12:19 PM

The smell of hay and manure. I know that sounds really bizarre and disgusting, but I grew up on a farm in Oklahoma and it was an ever-present smell. When I smell it now, I become incredibly homesick. I live in a suburb of Sacramento that still has farmland around it, so sometimes when I go to the grocery store, that hay/manure smell just gets to me.

Storms remind me of my childhood. Kittens. Grilled cheese sandwiches and Spaghetti O's. Certain Yankee Candle scents remind me of home but not so much my childhood. The smell of chlorine. Frosties from Wendy's. After family swim night at the city pool, we would stop at Wendy's and I always got a Frosty with my food. I would sit there in the restaurant, still wet and in my bathing suit, and FREEZE while I ate.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)

Posted by: Rhonda at August 18, 2005 12:27 PM

* playing in the streets after a hurricane - rabbits, snakes, everything would come out to observe the wreckage.
*running around, exploring, riding the pony through sugar cane fields - finding dead things (the most awesome was a cow!)
*playing hide and seek in the Lagoon, which we thought was inhabited by witches and such.
Louisiana was a fun place to be in the summers.

Posted by: Theresa at August 18, 2005 2:19 PM

Your first one actually reminded me of one of mine. I was five, and playing on the barstools in the kitchen of my Godmother's house. The chair moved and I fell chin first onto the counter. I didn't think anything of it, until my mom came running in. Apparently it was a loud thump. She gave me some ice and I remember holding it to my chin and then pulling it away and it was saturated with blood. We drove to the hospital and I got five stitches. I remember the feel of the cloth covering my eyes and the sting of what I thought was soap, but was actually the needle giving me the shot. I remember not being afraid, but that my mom couldn't come in with me because she was afraid she would pass out.

I lived across from a park for 9 yrs, and knew every inch. I remember sneaking in after dark through the missing rod in the gate numerous times. I remember sledding down the hill by the lake in the winter whenever we had snow. I remember fishing in the pond and feeding the blue gill to the ducks. I loved that park, what better a 'backyard'?

Posted by: A.K. at August 18, 2005 2:31 PM

*making forts out of lawn chairs and blankets

*playing in the creek

*catching bugs and tadpoles

*riding Big Wheels down the street

*rednecky trailer park shenanigans/creepy neighbors as a result of living in a shitty trailer park

Posted by: Dawn (webmiztris) at August 18, 2005 2:38 PM

ok. this may be slightly depressing, but it's honest.

The sound of a leather belt coming quickly from pantloops. (still makes me shudder to this day)

the sound of my parents screaming at each other.

There's more, but deeper down some are good:

The smell of trees and camp, a place of freedom.

School buildings, and whatever that aniseptic and wax they cleaned with - make me ache to be back in a classroom.

Posted by: Autumn at August 18, 2005 2:42 PM

Loverly post Chris. I kinda want some potato chips now. I remember the smell of the local pool as well. I also remember my childhood friends and the warm nights we would spend in our makeshift tents under the stars. Sometimes we would get up and walk around the neighborhood in the middle of the night, it was so quiet. And of course since my last visit, I have vivid memories of what else? Custard! ;)

Posted by: Kate at August 18, 2005 2:58 PM

real hot chocolate made with milk, unsweetened cocoa and sugar kept and served in an old fashioned thermos (you know the kind lined with glass that could break and kill you if you dropped it)

the combined smell of chlorine, ice rink and commercial bread baking

the initial smell of a cigarette being lit off a car lighter

Neil Diamond

the taste of ice cubes marinated in rye

Posted by: Kathryn at August 18, 2005 3:18 PM

Stunning photograph!

I was moved nearly every year of my life until I graduated from school so most of memories are flashes and good friends were something I just never really had in the short time that I lived anyplace.

That's probably a BIG reason why I have had my 15 year old twin boys stay in the same school district most of their lives.

Posted by: Michelle at August 18, 2005 3:48 PM

I moved alot when I was a kid and never had time to make any good friends but the one thing that stands out in my mind is going to my grandparents house and the feeling that all was well in the world if for just a brief moment in my life. They were my rock, my normal, and the only fond memories I have from childhood.

Great post and picture Chris!

Posted by: Beanhead at August 18, 2005 6:12 PM

Ach. I've blocked out my childhood.

Hey, I heard you dropped Mia on her head.

Posted by: angela marie at August 18, 2005 8:54 PM

Hot Tex*s Days and the beautiful Tex*s Skies! (I only miss the latter!)

Posted by: lrstan at August 18, 2005 9:27 PM

Going running very early one sunny morning, I guess I was somewhere around 13? 14? Mid summer in central NY. When I got home, I was panting and feeling that "good" kind of tired, it was around 7:00 in the morning. I laid down on my back in the sloping driveway and smelled the fresh, wet, clean air, looked around at all the new green-ness, and listened to those birds that make that mournful"whoo, whoo" sound. Doves, I think? It's one of my favorite memories.

Posted by: Anne A. at August 18, 2005 10:04 PM

My yard. My parents were and still are avid gardeners, and they had flowering trees, plants, you name it they had it. In the spring it would look just like a paradise. In the early morning, before the ground fog cleared, everything would look so other-worldly, and I remember thinking that if there was any place on this earth that the elven folk would like to live it would be in our yard in the spring.

Posted by: Nina at August 18, 2005 11:33 PM

awesome pic

i feel like you are looking at me...eeeeerrryyy

have a great weekend...i'm off on a mini-vaca...should be interesting

Posted by: beautiful face at August 19, 2005 3:02 AM

I love that image!

Posted by: Allan at August 19, 2005 8:48 AM

heh. cul-de-sac. There's a word you don't hear in the south.

Posted by: kalisah at August 19, 2005 10:19 AM

For me, I remember green. All of the yards had green green grass. I remember the street, I can still show you exactly where we played running bases and kick ball. My mom still lives in our old house, and it feels like home.

Posted by: Mary Jo at August 19, 2005 12:02 PM

oh wow. great post.

for me it will forever be:

* neil diamond's "sweet caroline" or placido domingo's "perhaps love" - i hear those songs and i'm suddenly 3 years old dancing in our old living room.

* chantilly lace powderpuffs - my gramma always smelled of this and would let her granddaughters play at her vanity, even though we'd get her powder everywhere.

* crunching snow and the rustle of snow pants - winter in winnipeg was magical when i was a child. torturous as an adult.

* sunday nights of cinnamon toast, fragle rock and feet fights. some of my favourite memories of my brother include all these things.

Posted by: suze at August 19, 2005 1:55 PM

Peppermint tic tacs, the smell of coffee brewing, icy air conditioning, cake baking, Fig Newtons, powdered mini donuts and chocolate milk, and Doublemint gum all throw me instantly back to my grandparents' house from the time that I can begin to remember until the last time I was there when I was 33. And any one of these or a combination thereof can bring tears to my eyes instantly. I miss them more than I can even begin to express.

I'm sitting here with tears rolling down my cheeks, not sad tears, thinking about how much they loved me and how safe I felt with them.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Chris.

Posted by: zanie at August 19, 2005 5:37 PM

love the photo!

As for childhood memories I've got a lot. here's the tip of the iceberg:

- the smell of sap, acacias and redwood trees from climbing trees and constructing epic forts.
- the total exhileration of riding my bike down our (very steep) driveway. and living to tell the tale.
- the endless games with my neighbors (all of whom I still keep in touch with).
- voraciously devouring books. oodles, and oodles of books. i already have a massive list started for books i want my girls to read. the book thing? hasn't changed at all.
- music. i've had a soundtrack to my entire life. from simon and garfunkel to the ramones. i can hear a song and it can immediately transport me back to a very specific time and place in my life. the music thing? also hasn't changed at all.
- smells. the smell of my mom's Erno Laszlo soap that she washed her face with every night. every time i pass the erno laszlo counter at nordies, i think of her. the smell of fresh cut grass on a summer day.
- my shins. looking down at all my bruises and scrapes and wondering if i'd ever have 'normal' looking 'woman' legs, or if i'd be cursed to forever have mottled bruises and bleeding cuts. turns out, i wasn't cursed. that way.
- soccer. baseball. tennis. gymnastics. basketball. riding my bike. running. photography. art. constant activity.
- big wheel. sit-n-spin. spyrograph. pastels and charcoals. a whole book of fresh construction paper (and later, the black-bound art books). the joy of brand new markers, that hadn't been marred.
- making 'music videos' with our video camera -- erasure, the cure, nine inch nails, english beat, modern english, depeche mode, u2 etc., etc. they're SO hysterical to watch now. especially how 'serious' we were about making them.
- my first kiss. my first boyfriend. my first...other stuff. my first hearbreak.

Posted by: Kelly McCord at August 19, 2005 7:09 PM

There sure are a lot of childhood memories in the comments above me. I am always impressed that you have such a great memory to be able to recall so much. I tend to remember glimpses.

I love that photo of you reflected in the window glass. You choose the best shots. :)

Posted by: Zandria at August 20, 2005 1:44 AM

You have brought back wonderful memories of summer twilights, the smell of newly-cut grass, the sound of mechanical lawnmowers, fireflies, voices heard in the still air. Children having one last game of tag before bed.

The women gossiped over the fence in the mornings, the men, at night.

Posted by: vero at August 20, 2005 10:45 AM

Did you used to live in Houston? Where??

A fond memory of mine is flashlight tag.
I lived on a cul-de-sac (no island with a tree and bushes though) and all the neighborhood kids would get together to play flashlight tag. Our mailbox was base and all the yards in the cul-de-sac were fair game.
The longer we played, the better our hiding places were. We'd play all night till our parents would yell, "This is the last time I'm gonna tell you to come in! After that you're grounded for a week!" It was worth it. :)

Posted by: Kitty at August 20, 2005 11:52 AM