Thread Memories

It was nothing special really.  A simple white, cotton slip with an edge of eyelet trim and thin pink ribbons at the shoulders.   Decades of laundering had turned the starched stiffness to a softness, a comfort held light in my hands.  I couldn’t resist my next impulse as I brought it to my nose.  I paused for a moment, a brief flash and then, I inhaled long and deep, I breathed in and closed my eyes.  I could smell her right through it all, every fibre a memory, every thread a flash of time and as the air in my lungs came rushing out my eyes filled and the memories began to swim behind closed lids.   

It had been years since we left her there.  There in the darkness, there in earth that swallowed her death in its wide and dark yawn, and yet she still lingered; her scent on simple, plain cotton.  A wisp of Anais Anais perfume and the talc she would apply daily infused in fabric, right there in my hands.  With each breath a simple clear drop of memory fell from my eyes.

 I remember her scent as I snuggled up close in the hard church with the harder pews looking for softness, for light.  She would lean down, her fur collar tickling my cheek, reach for my hand and close my fingers over a King peppermint.  She bent her head low, her lips and breath touching my ear and whispered, “see how long you can make it last.” I would try, I would try so hard to not bite down on all of that sweet and pepperminty goodness, but when the powdery mint became paper thin my teeth would defy my will power.  She would hear the soft crunch, look down and wink at me as she placed finger to her lips. 

I remember her scent as I would play with her hair.  I would brush and brush and brush while standing behind all of that softness on the kitchen bench, by the large window with the graceful oak tree serenading us in the wind.  I would play at hairdresser, and she would let me, telling me how much she loved it when I would run my fingers through her soft curls.

I remember her scent when she would guide me in a task, often standing close so she could demonstrate and show me exactly what needed doing.  Cleaning, polishing sliver, washing windows, knitting, cross stitching and dishes.  Each chore filled with her scent.

I remember her scent when she held me close on my wedding day and told me I was beautiful and how to be a good wife.  I remember her scent, right there on my newborn baby’s head after she passed her back to me with tears sparkling in her eyes – a great-granddaughter – a joy.

I remember her scent as I walked into her kitchen and we sat on stools around coffee and windmill cookies and talked about the weather, who beat whom to the clothesline that day and about things that matter to the heart of a woman.

I remember her scent as I walked in on death that day, as I collapsed in my Opa’s arms when he told me that she was gone.   He used that word, just like that. Gone.  That night, after death had closed its grip on my family I stood in her room, opened her closet and remembered.  She was there.  Just there in the scent. 

 I remember.
In loving memory of my Oma, Elba Bruinink-Devoest.
December 26,1925 – February 27, 2003.   I miss her.


  1. Beautiful! Teary eyed now and sniffing for familiar scents myself! What a powerful tribute!

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