Monday, January 28, 2008

The Smell of Spring

I moved to LA in September of 1994. And it rained like it was nobody's business. People kept apologizing to me for the weather. It was the first year of El NiƱo and it rained like it was Michigan or something. But I didn't mind. It wasn't snow. And it reminded me of home.

I had a newish friend who lived in Ojai and I had a terrible crush on him. When I was bored at my very dull temp jobs, I wrote letters to him and various other friends. Actual letters. That I printed out and mailed. Or, dare I say it, wrote by hand.

This is a letter I sent him once. (And I know how incredibly queer [i.e. corny] it was to write such a letter, but I was a literary twit. And he was appreciative. Or pretended to be. And what I wrote in my previous blog entry reminded me of this and I thought you might like it. Here goes:

The smell of spring reminds me of my mother.

In May and June my best friend Jenifer and I would ride our bikes to school. We’d meet halfway between our houses and then off we’d go. My mom, in her robe, would walk with me to the end of the driveway. (Our driveway had never been sealed after it was first paved, so over the years it became very gravely. After long drives, even if I was asleep in the car, I could always tell we were home when I heard the wheels crunch on the salt and pepper way. It toughened our feet in the summertime and hampered roller skating. I can hear my bike’s tires slowly scrunching down the drive.) The outdoors was magical, like it is only at certain times. Like a Friday morning at 7:15 in May in West Bloomfield, Michigan. The air all yellowy-new with the sun. Kind of cold. The magnolias blooming and their pink and white petals falling much too soon—they always opened too early, never waiting for that last killing frost. It smelled good, like my mom and the sun and spring. Like dew and grass. It smelled like the morning, like quiet.

I’d be scared to leave my mom and go riding alone down the long street that would curve so I couldn’t look back anymore to see her wave. But she did always keep waving ‘till I rounded that bend. Maybe even after, who can say? And there would be lilacs. And I would be afraid some bad person would get me before I got to Jenifer. My ears would start to feel very cold and my head would hurt, just like it still does when a cool wind sneaks into my ears, even on an early summer morning. I’d probably be a little late and Jenifer would meet me at the end of my street not bothering to stop at the halfway point. Then we’d ride together on our shiny ten speed bikes. No, then we probably still had the hand-me-down banana-seat bikes.

We’d always have sore throats and be thoroughly winded by Wellesley Court so we’d stop there and rest before the big hill at Buxton. These are the subdivision roads of my neighborhood, roads I could traverse in my sleep at one time, but now down which I haven’t been in years. We’d cut the corner at Nicholas and what was that street? I think I’ve jumbled them all by now. But we’d sneak through someone’s driveway to cut that corner. We always were careful, just as our mothers had admonished when they waved goodbye. No, I’m sure Jenifer's mom never troubled to see her out. But mine did, with concern on her face.

And when we got to school our silence was broken as so many other kids milled about at the bike racks. And by that time the good smell and memory are over anyway, because mostly the vision is of my mom, and the end of the driveway, and the golden misty quality of the light, and the placement of the houses on my childhood street, frozen that way. Before Mr. F went to jail and sold off the lots on either side of his big old house, and before some angry people burned down a house on one of those new lots, but after the boy in the house across the way molested me, but before I told my parents the whole story. And anyway, it was before a lot of stuff, and after other things, too. But even here, far across the country, in the middle of winter, I smell that Michigan morning and I am reminded that I have always been loved, have always loved, will always be loved.

And that's the end. It could use some editing, but that wouldn't be honest. What a queer mother fucker I am, huh?

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