Youth Dew in the perfume aisle, and I am suddenly a little girl on Christmas morning, watching Mom open a present from Dad. Scratchy pillowcases take me back to sleepovers at my grandma's house, and the beat of ♫ "wish they all could be California girls" ♫ puts me in Natalie's bumble-bee-colored GTO. Fresh paint recalls a summer day when I sat under the carport sucking a lime Popsicle so hard it turned white, watching a neighbor boy touch up our eaves. I have a rewind button attached to my senses.
Today I smelled freshly laid asphalt, and I was transported back to a summer day when I was ten. Our street had just received a shiny black coat of the stuff to cover the winter pot holes, and I dashed next door, barefoot, while it was still hot and sticky. Just that whiff of tar in the air and I was back on the lawn, picking the burning muck off my feet.
Photos of my little kids always hit my rewind button. The sturdy canvas of those plaid pants, the worn softness of that red jumpsuit—I even remember how their hair felt (crunchy after dinner, silky after baths) and the minuscule cracks in their chappy cheeks. I hear the crackle of static from the crocheted orange and brown afghan laying on the floor, and the rip when bare legs were lifted off the vinyl chair. Jim-Bob called goodnight to Erin and John-Boy, and Gabi begged, "Can't we watch the scenes?" while I closed the blinds to the daylight we were saving and announced bedtime. It's been 34 years, yet it's so vivid it could be last month.
When I had little kids I lived in their time zone. Rainy afternoons putting the cushions back on the couch could last forever. Waiting for a birthday party, or Dad to come home, was as hard for me as it was for them. I couldn't imagine a day when I wouldn't have pieces of play dough stuck in the carpet and a bottle of pink amoxicillin in the fridge. There were no remotes in those days, so I didn't understand the concept of fast forward. It didn't matter. It happened anyway.
I wouldn't want to go back and actually live those days again. They were happy, but demanding. I'm glad I have a rewind button that zooms me back in time for a visit, though. And, looking back, I wish I'd used the pause button more often.
My daughter has a quote by Anna Quindlen on her bulletin board:
"The biggest mistake I made is the one that most of us make . . . I did not live in the moment enough. This is particularly clear now that the moment is gone, captured only in photographs. There is one picture of the three of them sitting in the grass on a quilt in the shadow of the swing set on a summer day, ages 6, 4, and 1. And I wish I could remember what we ate, and what we talked about, and how they sounded, and how they looked when they slept that night. I wish I had not been in a hurry to get on to the next things: dinner, bath, book, bed. I wish I had treasured the doing a little more and the getting it done a little less."