June 28


Memory Lane

By Jessica Allen

June 28, 2019

Most days I just toss whole (soft) fruit and veggies on his tray for him to pick up and feed himself.  But lately for convenience, we’ve been trying new tastes from these little jars. As I was washing them out to save (because that’s what Toenjeses do), a huge wave of nostalgia hit my memory bank.

A blast from the past

My mother has a brown wicker sewing basket with a twist clasp.  Since sewing is not her primary gifting, her basket was always a curious mystery to us, high on her closet shelf.  On rare occasions it descended from its place to mend a pocket or loose button, and it was always fun to peek inside.  The silver latch was just a little loose and wiggled on its turn pin. 

From what I remember, it is well-stocked with colored patches, thread, needles, a small plastic click-close box of safety pins, a thimble, a fabric tape measure, and a jar – just like this one – full of buttons.

I’m sure they’re all the spare buttons that came from my dad’s shirts, her blouses, our dresses.  Those buttons we all keep somewhere. (Mine are in my sock drawer, in a ziplock next to the kids’ teeth and Tooth Fairy notes.)

I can still hear the gentle clink of buttons in that jar.

What really came rushing back as I washed that little jar in my sink was the smell of my parents’ closet.  The familiar fragrance of their clothes, mixed with a hint of old letter jackets and new dry-cleaning bags, and the ever-so-faint scent of mothballs stored in an old frosting container (because that’s what Toenjeses do) high up on Dad’s side.

I can see my mom’s shoes in rows under her hanging shirts.  The very back of the closet was a little bit of a mystery, and is my only childhood “monster under the bed” type memory that I can recall. 

Why does smell trigger memory?

I learned long ago that smell triggers our emotional memory.  Why?  Because our olfactory system has a strong feed into the amygdala part of our brain, which is the part that processes emotions.  Our olfactory system also feeds into our hippocampus, which is responsible for developing memories.  Simply put – when you smell something, it makes you feel and remember, because smell feeds into our emotional brain, whereas words (spoken or written) feed into our thinking brain.  This is why certain smells will take you right back to your grandmother’s kitchen, or your high school locker room, or your old boyfriend’s house.

Anyway – all this is to say that a little old and forgotten part of my childhood bubbled up as I soaped the baby and that little bitty jar in my sink.  I dried off the glass and put the lid on, added it to the drawer with the rest of its sister jars that yet don’t have a repurpose, and thanked the universe for that sweet little walk down memory lane. 

And then we got back to the business of creating memories in our own home. Because who knows what special things our little people might remember someday about their childhood?



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Jessica Allen

About the author

Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have four children: LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and Elisha.

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