The season of the scarf is long over in most places around the world, including here in the Mediterranean. The winter has turned into a faded memory and spring has made its entry. In general, most people welcome this season with open arms as it symbolises novelty: a fresh start for nature that bloom and thrive after months of surviving, spring cleaning, various holidays in certain religions that are celebrated. Especially for me, since I always need to layer up whenever the temperature drops below twenty degrees celsius. Yet this year I have a slightly harder time to part from my scarf. This becomes even more bizarre when considered how eagerly I long for spring every single year.
It is an undeniable fact that I am one of the most nostalgic and reminiscing creatures on this planet. Somehow, the world is full of elements who continuously trigger every one of my senses, be it one by one or all at the same moment. Unprepared and out of the blue these triggers trace back the remnants of long forgotten memories in my mind. Sounds, pictures, words, touches, tastes, smells, anything will suffice. And those elements always catch me by surprise. While I might appear as being physically present, once the triggers have been activated, I am mentally brought back to a place and time in the past.
So, how is this related to something as trivial as a scarf?
Simple. This scarf is not purchased with my money. (for as far as I can tell) This scarf was not an object of my desire. It just happened to be there at the right place and the right time. Out of practicality and necessity, I grabbed this scarf the minute I saw it laying there. It was too cold for my standards to be walking outside without some fabric protecting my usually exposed neck against the cold. Foolish as I am, I forgot to bring my own scarf from home. Luckily, I was visiting my parents, therefore I took the liberty upon me to quickly run through my mother’s scarf collection with the intention to return it, obviously. In my defence, I was in a dire situation of either freezing to death or moving from A to B without risking a serious drop in my body temperature. (I am not dramatic at all, as one can tell.)
That is when it happened. A whiff of the finest and dearest smell to me in the world was covering every fiber of the scarf, finding its way to my nose and releasing a surge of happiness inside my body. It was my mother’s smell, the smell I am the most familiar with in the world. The first smell I ever became familiar with. The one who soothes me the most when my whole world seems to fall apart. The one that makes me feel safe and sound, regardless of place, time, and situation. The one that chases dark clouds away and makes the sun shine again.
After sniffing up this wonderful smell, I immediately was brought back in time, to the days where I was nothing more than a quiet little girl. Whenever the opportunity arose to dive into my parents’ bed, I would gladly grab it with both my hands. Nestling myself beneath the bed sheets, warm, heavy, and big, suppressing any thought of, let alone attempt, to climb out of it. Sick days, holidays, even during sizzling summer breaks. Nothing is persuasive enough to lure me out of their bed. That has not changed nor in the passing of time neither in my own coming of age.
It was not necessarily the bed itself. Or the fairly heavy covers for my weak limbs to pull them off of me. Or the fluffy pillows. Or the nightstand where, if I was really lucky, my mom had hidden something to munch on in. It was the smell of my parents. Both my mother’s and father’s side of the bed would be infused with their odour and it provided me with the rare opportunity to surround and wrap myself head to toe in them. Especially in the morning the smell would be at its peak. The bed was still warm, the sheets resembling the shape of a miniature iceberg, and the traces of a night full of sleep or insomnia still fresh in all their presence. No smell of a freshly baked pie, of freshly mown grass in the midst of spring, and of a newborn baby can compete with this smell.
It is not a rare phenomenon or one of my many quirks. Our clever brains have the fascinating ability of associating smells with certain memories. A small whiff can recall sweet memories of the good ol’ days where simplicity and naivety were prevailing. On the contrary, it can also evoke torturing memories burdened with repressed details of our life, of whom we thought we hid them so perfectly well they wouldn’t be able to rise to the surface ever again. Smells possess a certain power that even the deteriorating mind of an Alzheimer patient can’t resist. Additionally, it inspires many artists to create masterpieces: the movie ‘Perfume’ is one of my most favourite movies (I ashamedly have to admit I have not read the book yet), giving one of our most mysterious senses the leading part in a fairly macabre story, portraying perfectly its strength used for both good and bad purposes.
As a child who is fairly anxious by nature and who always hid behind her parents or grandmother, having a place that provides such great comfort, happiness, and safety simultaneously is considered a rare gem that should be cherished until the end of time. Somehow anything disastrous that had a slight chance of occurring in the world, let alone happen, could upset me easily and throw me of my feet by just a small breeze. When my ability to express myself verbally would be impaired due to overwhelming emotions or a heightened stress level, there was always this safe haven where I could turn to and find some solace when darkness blinded me. Without my guardian angels needing to be physically present or being in near proximity to me to hold my hand, it felt as if they actually were there, embracing me and assuring me there is no need to fear the unknown nor to worry about it.
Years went by and the opportunities to sneak into their bed and gain another stolen moment of eternal bliss for myself are extremely slimmed. Yet there are sufficing alternatives, especially when being so far removed from that place of safety and soundness. That is where the scarf comes into play. From both my mother and father I obtained one of their scarves. Both scarves are red, warm, and most importantly, every fiber is covered with their characteristic odour. My father’s aftershave and small hints of his working place. My mother’s warm subtle perfume. I still have the intention to return them, but somehow something inside me prevents me from doing so.
Now, with many rivers, borders, oceans, mountains, and much more natural and artificial elements between us, these scarves are lifesaving objects. On any moment when sorrow, anger, sadness, or despair will crush my soul, which happens on a daily basis, all I have to do is take one of these scarves, wrap it around myself and lighten the pain that is called ‘living life’ a bit by inhaling deeply and let the soul-soothing smell leave a trace of comfort. While closing my eyes and burying my nose in their scarves, I am transported back to them, transforming into that little girl who would never let an opportunity slip by to crawl in their beds and cover myself in their blankets. Reminding myself again that everything was, is, and will be fine. The effect is not as strong as laying in their bed, or actually being near them, but it is just enough to tide me over. To get me through those dark moments without drowning in the darkness of despair.
I am more than thrilled that spring is here. However, I will not yet put the scarf away. No matter how sizzling hot it will get. Only for the purpose of travelling back in time to my parents’ bed many years ago. Where everything will always be alright, no matter how many storms are raging outside of the bed or inside me.
Written by Dayah Guy