What did your mother dab behind her ears as the final touch before a dress-up occasion?
Did it come in a bright cobalt blue bottle that transported you to a Paris nightfall? Maybe Mom simply smelled of fresh, clean Ivory soap. Whatever it was, if you caught a whiff of that fragrance today, her brief instant image will flood your memory.
The sense of smell is recognized as most likely to stick with us long after hearing has faded or eyesight has dimmed. It’s not difficult to remember how she looked or things she said. But can your memory hear her actual voice?
A hospice nurse who reads this column tells me she often hears families say they can no longer recall the sounds of long-gone voices.
Several years before I lost my mother, my sister and I sat down with her in front of her china cabinet as she told the story behind each of her treasured dishes. My cheap little tape recorder now yields Mom’s voice at the touch of a button. Today, a camcorder easily captures that elusive sound — plus face and gestures. Virtual life to view at will.
The simplest way to go about preserving an elder’s memories is to ask questions.
So, what would you most want to remember, or want your kids to know about Grandpa? You’ve probably heard many of his early-day tales, but take my word for it, you won’t remember them. I vaguely recall my grandmother’s tales of great-great-aunt Sue, a teacher who was stalked by a rejected suitor. I seem to recall something like a poisoned apple, but I was just a kid, and what kid would have bothered memorizing a story you could hear over and over in person? Great Victorian-era melodrama lost. What a shame we had no recording gadgets then. Today, we have no excuse.
If you’re my age, let your family know you’d gladly talk to their equipment. If you’re a child or grandchild, just ask.
But do it now, while Mom’s memory is intact.