Have you ever been somewhere and a smell miraculously transports you back to another place and another time? I vividly remember 13 years ago when we were living in Houston, Texas. I was taking my two very young boys on a walk around the neighborhood when I suddenly stopped, overcome by a fragrance that transported me back to my childhood and I was standing in my grandmother’s kitchen in front of the window. My grandmother had been gone a long time. As I searched around to find the source of the fragrance, I found a fully bloomed Magnolia tree. I didn’t even know what the flower was at the time but found comfort in the journey it took me on. I later learned that my grandmother had planted a magnolia tree outside her kitchen window. She tended to it until it had become acclimated to the harsh Kansas climate. My grandmother had a way with flowers and always had some growing in a flowerbed until she passed away at 98. Unfortunately I did not inherit her green thumb.
More recently I had another such experience. A year ago my other grandmother passed away, six weeks shy of 99 years old. She led a beautiful life; full of hardship, love, family, and a passionate relationship with God. As we prepared to lay her to rest, my brother and I took one more trip to the old farm where we would spend our white Christmases and Weeks of exploration in the summer. We walked passed the pond that produced the biggest bullfrogs, the spring where we would swim and take cold refreshing drinks in the lazy summer, through the back woods where grandma and grandpa dug and carried all the rock down the mountain to build their house, to the top of the mountain where grandma would travel many times to take food to the neighbors when times were tough. On our trip back down the mountain to the now rundown homestead, my brother and I looked at the huge garden area that grandma had single handedly removed all the rock and planted most fertile garden, we were saddened at the state that it was now in. Instead of the sweetest corn and tomatoes I’ve ever tasted and the biggest strawberries I had ever seen, it was full of waste high weeds, discarded cars and other junk. Almost afraid of what we would find we decided to look inside the old milk shed. I remembered it being much bigger than it really was…but then again, when you are a kid everything is much bigger including the tales we’d tell. It was a forgotten place, discarded by those who now own it and it was full had lots of forgotten things just left here and there. We were not quite prepared for what was about to happen. As we stepped inside and closed the door, I became 8 years old again and my brother was 12. We could see the milk cow with her head in the trough and grandpa sitting on the milk stool. We laughed and cried at the same time as we relived the days when grandpa taught us to milk the cow and the time when grandpa was taking the bucket of milk up to the house and my brother and I stayed behind and had a milk fight while standing on opposite sides of the cow. The cow never even stopped eating. My brother said “I wonder if grandpa’s old milking stool is still in here”. Well surely not. It had been well over twenty five, maybe even thirty years since they lived on the farm. Tucked away in the frame of the shed only visited by cobwebs and time, there rested the two legged milk stool where we learned from grandpa. As we left the farm that day my brother gave me a treasured gift, a trip back to our childhood and grandpa’s two legged milk stool.
So today, when you enter my home and look onto the hearth, you will find grandpa’s milk stool, just as we found it, dirt and all. A reminder of a simpler time, a time spent with my family in a place that was magical and my favorite place from childhood. La bella vita? Yes. This is part of my beautiful life. Don’t forget to surround yourself with the things that connect you with your loved ones and with those favorite moments in your life, even if it is a dirty two legged milk stool.