Last night, as evening began to hide the clouds that had owned the sky all day, I stepped into my parents’ house to collect my daughter. A wall of scent and memory flew into my face and settled around my heart. It lifted the corners of my mouth and made me stop, and breathe.
I could smell Apricot Chicken cooking on a cold Autumn evening, whilst standing in the downstairs living room of my family home, right in front of the wood fire.
When I was five, six… sixteen years of age, I would sit in that room, watching ABC evening TV, while mum cooked dinner upstairs. In those days, she would have just dragged herself in from a long day in the operating theatre. The smell of Betadine would cling to her, and the sound of pots and pans and stirring and chopping would filter down the stairs, forcing us to turn the TV up with a grumble, completely oblivious to the fact that while we were annoyed that mum’s cooking was interfering with our television watching, mum was dead on her feet, knowing her day wouldn’t be over until dinner was cooked, the dishes were done, laundry washed, folded or ironed, and us selfish bastard kids had finally gone off to bed.
We’d sit there for hours, watching Danger Mouse, Trap Door and Roger Ramjet, waiting for Degrassi Junior High to come on. We’d laugh and fight, and ignore mum’s pleas for us to set the table for dinner, pretending we didn’t hear her, or telling her we’d be up in 5 minutes … we were such jerk liars.
Despite not wanting her to make any sound as she prepared our meal, we’d be desperate for dinner to be ready. The closer it got, the headier its scent, and the growlier our stomachs became.
Last night, that smell of Apricot Chicken took me back to that time, where I had my whole family at my fingertips, whenever I wanted (or didn’t want) them around.
And now my daughter is experiencing something almost identical to my own childhood, only hers comes without the scent of betadine and the stories from the operating theatre. And right now, it comes without brothers or sisters to fight with.
It also comes without the smell of Apricot Chicken, because they were actually cooking Ham and Leek Soup…(wtf??)