Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

Probably everyone has one.  That particular smell that, when you come across, it takes you back to another time or another memory.  I talked with a friend the other day who remembers high school football as a defining time in his life.  He said whenever he’s in a locker room, that brings back a wonderful memory for him.  I thought about that.  A long time.  Locker room smells.  I called his children and he’s being admitted in the morning.

I really can’t criticize people’s memories or what triggers them.  (Who am I kidding!  Of course I can criticize them.)  I really shouldn’t criticize people’s memories or what triggers them.  It may be a smell.  It may be an activity.  It may be something as simple as mowing the lawn on a comfortably breezy day and smelling the honeysuckle wafting from your neighbor’s fence row.

For me?  You put a new magnolia blossom on my screened back porch let the ceiling fan carry its amazing fragrance all around me, and I’ll sit in the rocking chair, lean back in comfort and be at peace with the world.

Magnolias were always a part of my happy youth.  Mom had a magnolia tree in our back yard that eventually grew into the tree “that ate Brooklyn.”  It was enormous, and in the early summer, you could be coming into the front of our house and swear the department story perfume ladies were hiding behind the bushes, spritzing you with “ode of Magnolia.”  I don’t know if anyone else in Russellville had a magnolia tree.  They didn’t need one.  The blooms and leaves from our tree at one time or another must have decorated every church and most of the weddings and ladies groups in town.

One of our neighbors now has an up and coming magnolia tree.  It’s young but prolific.  I’m old so I don’t have a reputation to worry about.  I went over and asked Bill if I could pick some of the blooms from time to time.  He laughed and said, “Of course.  “You already have one on your back porch, don’t you?”  I am old, but I can still feel guilty.

You see, magnolias remind me of my happy, simple childhood.  It reminds me of summers when Mom sat in the unairconditioned kitchen breaking beans. It reminds me of our neighborhood hide and seek games when I would hide under our tree.  It even reminds me of my absolutely-without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt favorite holiday, Christmas, when Mom would decorate with magnolia leaves.  She filled mantles and bowls with the bright green leaves.  She painted them gold, red and silver for a hundred other decorations.

Why don’t I have my own magnolia tree?  The second house we owned, I immediately planted one in our side yard.  It’s still there.  Nearly 38 years later.  And it still looks ugly.  It didn’t bloom much either.  Never before had I met an unattractive magnolia tree.  But, I grew one. 

I guess my lot in life is to sit back on my porch, an iced tea nearby, and let the fragrance of Bill’s magnolias drift around me.  Not a bad life.  Not a bad life at all.

Date of Blog Story: 
June 26, 2008

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