Friday, November 17, 2023

The smell of dinner cooking in the late afternoon takes me back 40 years

Several weeks ago, my beloved Wickliffe Swing Band performed in the front yard of one of its drum majors. The drum major's mom had bought the winning ticket for Band on Demand, an annual fundraiser in which the winner gets to have the band play outside their home.

The kids did their usual bang-up job, after which I walked down Wickliffe's Maple Street and Elm Avenue on the way back to my car. Just as I took the left turn from Maple onto Elm, it hit me.

It was the unmistakable smell of someone cooking dinner. I don't know exactly what they were making, but it was that combination of savory aromas familiar to anyone who has ever walked a suburban American street at 5:30 in the afternoon.

I hadn't experienced that smell in years, and it immediately took me back to Harding Drive in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Most of the kids with whom I grew up ate dinner with their families. You would play together all afternoon, and at some point you each had to go home for dinner with parents and siblings. Then you could meet up again afterward to continue doing whatever you were doing before soup was on.

Those dinners were almost invariably prepared by moms. More than once I remember heading home for my own dinner and along the way smelling the entrees and side dishes the mothers of Harding were preparing that particular day.

It was a different time. I don't know that it was ultimately any better or worse than now, but it was most certainly its own unique time.

People still cook dinner, but they don't eat together as often as they used to. And far more frequently than was once the case, it's often a dad doing the cooking.

Like most people, I infuse my childhood with a degree of romanticism it probably doesn't deserve. But smelling that dinner cooking somewhere near Maple and Elm reminded me how blessed I was to grow up when and where I did.

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