I breathe deeply. I fill my lungs with as much of it as I can, and I stop to hold it there.

The scent of my childhood.

No, not just my childhood.

But the scent of my culture, my mother’s culture, my father’s culture, a slice of island living in the middle of grits and cornbread and sweet tea.

Rice. With everything.

English mixed with Tagalog, Heinz ketchup over torta.

The aroma of vinegar and soy sauce and garlic simmering for hours.

Banana leaves lending zest, color, and the tiniest bit of tang that tickles the corner of your jaw.

Pillows of steam rising from stock pots holding chicken adobo and crispy pata, sizzling skillets of lumpia, pancit if it’s someone’s birthday.

The flavors of the Philippines mixing with American oxygen, floating down the halls of our house, shimmering against the walls, lingering in my mother’s hair, telling us, with every whiff, every bite, that we are sons and daughters of a culture rich and unique and satisfying.

A culture transplanted from the tropical seasons of a cluster of islands swimming in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, where everyone is Auntie or Uncle, Tita or Tito, where friends are family gathering around lechon and who’s bringing the halo halo and leche flan?, a land I was born in, a land we left for American living, a land that runs through my blood and skin and memory, linking me to an entire population of tan-toned, black-haired, warm-hearted people insisting, “you eat, eat!”, a bloodline mingled with the blood of Europe in my own children, who love pizza as much as pulvoron, reminding me, over every bowl of fried rice, that we are all a part of this fragrant world.

[ Note: This piece was written as a part of The Red Dress Club memoir-writing exercise RemembeRED. This week’spromptThis week, your memoir prompt assignment is to think of a sound or a smell the reminds you of something from your past and write a post about that memory.  Don’t forget to incorporate the sound/smell of your choosing! As always, concrit welcome/begged for. ]

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