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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. ]


I could feel it in my toes. Today was going to be special. I know, because me and Mom stayed up extra late last night picking out a dress, even though I hate dresses, and because Jenny talked about this place for probably ever, and because I had a brand new Snoopy bag with my name magic-markered on the inside, and because I would finally get to ride the yellow school bus that Mikey and Jenny rode to the magical place called “school.”

I bet it’s a lot like the circus, the one with the big gray elephant that swung its trunk at me. My tummy felt all swirly the night before the circus, too, like it felt last night, so I bet school is going to be like going to the circus.

I know Mom said to go to sleep. I tried to tip-toe past her bedroom to the kitchen with the clock on the oven that had bright green numbers on it so I could tell what time it was, and not the kind that’s round with numbers in a circle, because I don’t know how Daddy says it’s six-thirty when the numbers only go up to twelve, but Mom caught me and told me to go back to sleep until the clock said seven-zero-zero.

Once in the night I got up and made it past the bedroom because she was asleep and Daddy was snoring so loud I don’t know how Mom can sleep right next to him, and I made it into the kitchen without being told to go back to bed, and the clock said six-one-nine and I knew six is just one less than seven, so I knew it was almost time to be seven-zero-zero so I walked super slow on my tip-toes back to my bedroom and put on the dress me and Mom picked out and hid under the covers.

This was going to be a good trick, when Mom comes in to wake me up, and I’m already wearing my dress. I couldn’t get the buttons on the back so she’ll have to do that when she comes in, but the rest of it I got on all by myself and she’s going to be really happy I’m all ready for school.

I pull the covers all the way up to my chin so when she comes in she won’t know I’m not in my jammies anymore, and when I get out of bed she’ll be surprised, and she’ll think it was a good trick, too.

It’s time! I hear her in the hallway! My toes start wriggling without me doing it on purpose, but it’s the only part of me that I can move and get all excited because if I move too much she’ll know I’m awake and it’ll ruin the trick. I hear her knock on Mikey’s door, the way it creaks like it’s angry at me, because Mikey is always angry when I come into his room without asking. I hear her telling him to wake up, and I don’t know why he doesn’t want to wake up for school, but he’s groaning a lot, like when Dad tells him to take out the trash.

FINALLY, she comes to mine and Jenny’s room and I can’t stand it as soon as she’s in our room I throw back the covers and sit straight up and yell, “SURPRISE!” and Jenny groans, too, and tells me to shut up. But I’m too excited to even be mad that she used the “s” word. Mom asks me if I buttoned my dress, and I tell her no, so she does it for me, smoothing her hand on the lace collar around my neck, and she looks a little sad, probably because Mikey won’t get out of bed and Jenny just told me to shut up.

But I don’t care, because I’m a big girl now.

[ Note: This piece was written as a part of The Red Dress Club memoir-writing exercise RemembeRED. This week’s promptFor this week’s RemembeRED prompt, we’re asking you to remember kindergarten. I can remember the first day of Kindergarten just as clearly as I had written it, but wanted to try and voice it the way my five-year-old self would have. As always, concrit welcome/begged for. ]

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© Jessica Buttram and This Buttram Writes, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jessica Buttram and This Buttram Writes with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Don't make me cut you.