The other day, I was walking through the supermarket and a smell caught my attention. Though I was in the market, it wasn’t a culinary smell. It wasn’t the freshly ground coffee from that area of the coffee and tea aisle that always makes us question who actually grinds their own coffee in the supermarket. It wasn’t the cleaning solution coming from that big floor cleaner that looks like a miniature Zamboni cruising past the meat department. It was something much different. A fragrance that stopped me in my tracks, albeit momentarily, and took me to another place a very long time ago.
It was perfume. The perfume worn by my high school girlfriend.
I hadn’t considered the fact that it might still be made. If I recall correctly, it wasn’t a terribly expensive fragrance. It wasn’t one you would pay $100 for at better department stores, but something you might buy at the cosmetics counter of the local drug store. I’m not saying it was unpleasant, it wasn’t, but I didn’t think I would catch a whiff of it in a supermarket, 400 miles and 30-odd years away. Here it was, and like the famous DeLorean that did its thing at 88 miles per hour, I was taken back to what seemed now to be another lifetime altogether. For a moment, I was my 17-year-old high school self. Socially awkward, clumsy, and more than just a little bit goofy. A few of you readers might think I am still goofy, and a bit more than a little bit, too. That’s okay. I think I might have refined the goof in the last 30 years.
Here I was, taken back to Friday night movies, date night at the Pizza Hut, double dates with our best friends and prom night where we thought we were the best-dressed people in the world. For the record, we weren’t. No one is on prom night. Look at your own prom pictures and tell me I’m wrong. You’ll probably just put the pictures back in the closet under the winter hats and scarves where you found them. For a split second, I was 17. I was young, with no responsibility and having one concern — having fun. A simple fragrance allowed me to travel in time, instantly taking away the crows feet at my eyes, the grey in my hair.
Middle age seemed so far away. Piling into a car and going to the ice cream place next to the miniature golf course and deciding whether to golf or eat ice cream first. We fit so many people into a Camaro, it looked like the clown car from the circus. A car that would seat five if you squeezed, suddenly accomodated 10 or 12 teenagers. Those who had convertibles or pickups had it easier. With a pickup, you could pile your pals in the back, with a convertible, you just sat up on the back of the seat like someone in a parade.
If not a fragrance, it’s a song. A song from way back when that you always remember where you were and who you were with when you first heard it. The first slow dance you had, when you were nervous and unsure of what to do. Mine was “Under The Boardwalk” and it was with a sorta blind date named Kathy at a Sadie Hawkins dance in 11th grade. I can remember how thrilled I was and how nonplussed my date was. Romance was not in the cards for Kathy and me, but that one dance lives forever. We only had that one dance and I never saw her again. I think I talked to her on the phone once after the dance, but that was about it.
The owner of the above-mentioned fragrance was the Great High School Romance. We were going to be together forever. Well, we weren’t. We still aren’t. We’re Facebook friends, though. She has done well for herself and I have, as well. She has a great family and I do, as well. The high school romance is a fond memory for both us. Occasionally we laugh at the silliness of the whole idea of the high school romance. I imagine our spouses look at us and wonder what we ever saw in each other as we certainly have little in common.
In the supermarket, my wife asked me what was wrong when I stopped for a moment in the bread aisle. I thought about telling her I had just been taken back to a time when I had not a care in the world, where the world was my oyster and middle age was a million years away. A time when all I cared about was fast cars and friends and burning the candle at both ends.
Instead, I looked at her and said, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
Baltimore native Joe Weaver is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.