Sweet Memory

Invented in Coney Island, New York, in 1912, Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy was a staple in one of the basic food groups of my childhood. It went off the market after sixty years, but the original-formula taffy was brought back in 2010. I just learned this in a throwback candy store in Old Town Temecula, California. A girl of five or six passed between me and the glass display counter with a partially unwrapped, familiar-looking candy bar in her hand and a halo of pale brown around her lips. Before the visual impression even registered, the unmistakable perfume of chocolate Bonomo’s reached my nose. So characteristically cloying and wonderfully redolent of secret ingredients, I didn’t have to taste it to know what it was. The olfactory intrusion brought back a complete multimedia memory, recollected for the first time since I was a little kid in Levittown, New York.

I was flat on my back on a warm asphalt street with Susan Weiss on top of me, holding me down. We were both in the third grade, but Susan had already grown larger, stronger, heavier. She sat on my legs and held my arms down with hers, pinning my scrawny T-shirted body helplessly to the pavement. I could do nothing to prevent little blonde Ellen from sneaking up and kissing me on the right cheek, her lips sticky with chocolate Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. At age eight, being kissed by a girl is not something most boys welcome, or would admit if they did. When we were teenagers, Ellen and I tried it again without the bondage or Bonomo’s, and it was much better. Six decades later, we’re still friends.

This morning I am soaking in my back deck hot tub, and in the growing light from beyond Mount San Jacinto. Being perched on the eastern slope of an inland hill allows a long view of the arriving day. I muse about memory. If just a scent—or a sight, sound, touch, taste—can “bring it all back,” where was it? Back from where? Was it here all along, masquerading as past but just reposing in a timeless magnetic field, waiting to be activated by a waft of taffy? They say our brains have mapable neurological pathways, but the memories reached thereby are ethereal.

John Clinton Gray
March 8, 2013

An adapted excerpt from Gift of Seeds by John Clinton Gray http://bit.ly/GiftofSeeds

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5 thoughts on “Sweet Memory

  1. Sandy Brown jensen

    I love it just as much the second time around! My most instant memories come with the smell of sagebrush, horse sweat, the smell of spawning salmon rotting in the September sun…apple blossoms…that distinctly Mexican smell when you cross the border at Nogales. As for where memories live, isn’t that all mysteriously reducible to layers of cells somewhere in the snaky turns of the brain?

    Reply
    1. johnclintongray Post author

      I don’t think so. I intuit there’s more to it. Brain material unquestionably provides the neural pathways to access memory, but I believe memories themselves are not physically tethered. A cool notion to ponder: A spiritual luminary wrote way back that mind is the composite of the auras of all the atoms composing the physical body, and I imagine the brain to be composed of atoms with especially high-energy auras. (That’s what makes us bright.) Writing that touched a memory about electricity from college physics. We know a lot about how electricity behaves, but no one actually knows what it is. There are theories, of course, but the few I recall are backtracked extrapolations from how electricity acts. We learn more all the time about how the brain functions, identifying pathways and lots of truly fascinating stuff. But the “roads” to memories are not the memories themselves. Memories are like towns in the clouds, and the pathways more like air routes to and from them. Along the way, there’s a transition/translation from physical to emphemeral and back. I think that’s what the mind’s meant to be…

      And having blabbed all that, my air routes are asking me for additional caffiene right now. Jet fuel!

      Thank you for your comment!

      Reply
      1. Rodger Hyodo

        In 1952 David Bohm’s Hidden Variable identified active information as information that acts on information and recognized information as having a physically active role alongside matter and energy.

        Electron (particles) were inexplicably sometimes particle-like, other times wave-like.
        Science could not decide whether the universe was made of particles or waves. David Bohm suggested both, waves and particles, directed by ‘quantum potential’; active information informed particles when to be wave-like and when to be particle-like.

        It is the macro version of genetic profiling in a human body where cells contain a vast range of potential proteins or genes, and know exactly which ones to turn ‘on’ or ‘off’. When you need new skin cells, new liver cells, new nerve cells, then that’s what you get.

        In the cosmic scheme of things the same particles, electrons, positrons, protons and neutrons that compose body cells, are what appear as particles one moment and waves in the next.

        What tells those particles when to be the tree, and when to be the breeze? Memories.

  2. Gloria

    Not lost just getting older…long term memory comes back, short term not so much! Did I ever tell you about the time I umm “found” ice in the back of the iceman’s truck or when we use to chew tar that was curing over the cobblestone road? Memories help to create what we are today. Love your book, Gift of Seeds!

    Reply

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