I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
To me, one of the most marvelous aspects of living things is the inclusion by our Creator of the five senses. Each one by itself is a wonder. To have sight means I am able to see the vast array of color put into this world by God. The sky, while described as blue, really takes on various hues of what we know to be blue. As a kid, I remember being stunned sometimes at the incredible “blueness” of a July sky. When December would arrive, the sky would still be blue but definitely not the same striking shade of that mentioned previously. The red of a cardinal is different than the red of the geraniums my father had planted in his garden every summer. To have hearing allows me to experience a wide variety of noise. Some is pleasant, like the laugh of a baby or the purr of one of my cats as they snuggle on my lap. Some noise is unpleasant. Commercials on television and trains barreling by our house at 2:00AM certainly come to mind when I think of unpleasant noise. To have the sense of feeling or touch allows me to be instantly comforted when a fleece blanket is wrapped around me in the middle of January. I am able to feel the softness of an animal’s fur as well as wonder at the sharpness of claws given to them by God in order to defend themselves. To experience taste is such a gift from our Creator. The range of sweet and sour, spicy and bland, and hot and cold make our taste buds dance. We develop preferences for certain flavors and enjoying the favorite ones with those we love brings such joy to time spent around the table. The last sense, the ability to smell, holds such power for me and is the sense that is forefront in my mind today.
Have you ever been going about your day, checking things off your to-do list in hopes of reaching the end of the list before the end of your energy, when suddenly your nose picks up the smell of something that instantly triggers a flood of memories? This scenario is a regular occurrence for me. It can happen any time of year, but it seems to happen most in the fall and winter. There is something about the colder months of the year that trigger memories held tightly for many years; the scent of something often releases those memories and they flood my mind and heart. The last two days have been lived in this exact place.
If you were living with me, you would know that the last several weeks have been difficult ones. I have been struggling physically and emotionally for what seems like forever. I have been lonely, yet have been hesitant to reach out to anyone for fear that my emotional state would be too much for them…to awkward and/or difficult. Few people understand the battle I face and I have come to believe it best to not burden anyone else with it. Scattered within those very tough days, though, have been moments of reprieve. One day, in fact, I felt well enough to tackle a couple small projects that needed attention. Those days are few, though, so when they do happen, I try to take advantage of them. They do not last long and usually, my health issues come back with a vengeance perhaps as payment for pushing myself too much. Regardless, I know the price will need to be paid if I try to do too much.
Yesterday, I was browsing Pinterest, looking at boards for new recipes I might be able to try for the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons. I came across a picture for gingerbread. The bread looked exactly as my mind remembered it from my childhood…dark brown, fluffy, and topped with white whipped cream. It looked delicious and my taste buds began to get excited at the thought of it. I did a search specifically for gingerbread and began browsing and pinning recipes. I read ingredient lists and reviews, and I checked my cupboard for the necessary ingredients. Finding I was missing one, I made a quick trip to Walmart with my husband (it’s kind of difficult to push a cart while using a cane and I never get out of Walmart with only what I went for) to retrieve the needed item. After dinner, I began to prepare the gingerbread. By now, all my senses had been utilized—I saw the picture initially, I tasted the batter to check for any tweaking needed, I heard the hum of my wonderful red mixer as it did the work of combining ingredients for me, I felt the heat of the oven as I opened the door to put in my unbaked loaf, and I smelled the ginger as I worked. It was this final sense—smell—that really kicked into high gear, though, as the blob of ingredients morphed from a thick liquid to a beautiful, brown loaf of bread.
As the gingerbread baked, I was instantly transported back to the days of my childhood. My father loved ginger—ginger ale, gingerbread, gingersnap cookies—and the months of November and December brought the most use of ginger in my mom’s kitchen. My dad would sit at the table with his cup of coffee (if it was morning) or tea (if it was evening) and enjoy a few gingersnaps or a piece of my mom’s homemade gingerbread. I could see him sitting there, chatting with my mom or with me as I sat with him. He would always be willing to share his goodies with me. The Christmas lights would be lit in the front window, the three pink bells would blink in a random pattern, the tree would be decorated as it stood in front of the large bay window that faced the street, and Christmas carols would be playing on the record player in the living room. My mom would be bustling about the kitchen, hands messy with some type of holiday goodie she was creating. Sometimes my dad would play solitaire as he sat at his spot at the table. I would watch and cheer him on, feeling excited when he would win, sad when he would lose, and asking him to just cheat and move a card or two to his advantage. He never did. I still can hear his voice tell me, “If you cheat at solitaire, you only cheat yourself.” I didn’t understand that saying until my adult years, but I never argued with it.
Last night, as my gingerbread baked, and again this morning as I cut into the loaf and topped it with homemade sweetened whipped cream, the sense of smell triggered wonderful memories and transported me back to a time when life was so much simpler. I’m sure my parents had worries and concerns; in fact, I know they did. Those worries, while real, were not of the magnitude that parents of today face. I can’t turn on the television without seeing news that has the potential to terrify. My parents did not have access to videos of beheadings or headlines that detailed yet another school shooting. Television, while not entirely wholesome, did not portray sin in such a bold way and in a positive light. Many shows, if they did, also included the consequences for that sin. This is not generally the case today.
My dad passed away in 2004 and while I have not been able to talk to my dad in years, a simple loaf of gingerbread baking in my oven on a cold, rainy, autumn night made it seem like he was sitting here with me. God designed our minds to be immense storehouses of memories. Some are memories we wish we could forget. Others, though, are cherished reminders of time gone by, time when life was different, simpler, maybe only due to the fact that hindsight is always easier than present. Regardless, the contentment and peace felt as these memories were relived was triggered by a smell. What a marvelous Creator we have—One who would give us the gift of five senses and the ability to attach to those senses wonderful memories capable of easing, if only for a short time, the pain and stress of the day just lived.