Essence des choses. And that's about all I know about Marcel Proust (1871-1922), and Swann's Way. I It/he was on my Honours French course, I guess in 4th year. I read the relevant parts, his famous layered memory stuff. Does everyone know about the madeleines? (A madeleine is a kind of tea cake, significant to Proust for the memories it recalled and beautifully described.) You know it: it's the incredible recall of the first time a thing came home to you, fully registered in your mind and memory, so that every time you encounter it again, the first time comes rushing back and layers over your present experience.
We are told that the olfactory sense is the fastest, most effective aid to remembrance of things past. I used to keep a lipstick that reminded me of the spring I was 14. Is that proof?
I'm thinking about this now because of the book I'm writing about age. It's a combination of a memoir and a travel book. The more I dig into my past and the more questions I ask about my future, the more I am remembering and piecing together hitherto buried memories, discovering links I hadn't been aware of. I'm finding out reasons, maybe, for funny things I do. I never put the cap on the end of a pen because three-quarters of a century ago, one stuck and I couldn't get it off. I think maybe the reason I don't drink Coca Cola or any other soft drink is that I didn't have access to them during my formative Coke-drinking years. During World War Two, Coke was not available. I was 13, spending the summer in Gimli on Lake Winnipeg in the home of my maternal grandparents, most of the time on the dock at the harbour (the first year I was allowed to swim in deep water). I still remember the day a case of Coke came to town. The news spread like (artificial) maple syrup on a hot pancake and we all picked up our towels and headed in to town. Like everything else at that time, the Coke was rationed. My uncle the pharmacist had a soda fountain so he got six bottles. The Chinaman's, the best restaurant in town, got six bottles. I don't know how the remaining 12 were allotted. We all went to the Chinaman's because there were booths and we could squeeze in. I think we were allowed two bottles among us - maybe six or eight of us. As I say, I never developed a Coke habit and that's probably why.
That was the least of our deprivations. We were a small, lost generation. There were fewer of us because we were Depression babies. Our parents had to have been very brave to have children in the early 30s, and they were lean years. And then the war deprived us of our teenage insouciance. We weren't young enough not to care and we weren't old enough to do anything useful, so we just hung around waiting for it to be over and life to begin.
Remembrance of things past. Not much to remember, actually.