The boy is sick (again) with the beginning of something, and he asks politely to watch a show, so I say yes of course to the sick little sweetie and we plop on the couch. He’s been around kids for, really, the first time this year. Sunday school and the best friend’s little, some quick playground friendships, that sort of thing. So now we’re going through all the common ailments a little boy might get.

One thing has become very clear this year. The kid does not know a stranger. This is a foreign way of being for me, but I like watching him work. He spies a child (could be his age, could not) and then he cranes his neck into their face and asks them questions that demand an answer. “What are you doing? What’s your name?” If they are too young, they wordlessly look between him and their mother. If they are too old, they say “go away” and tighten their circle, or else, sometimes, take him in as one of their own.

One such time there was a grasshopper involved. The kids were pretending it was a scorpion, and one of the older girls informed the group importantly that scorpions only live in the *desert,* which is a key piece of information when you’re five. One of those things you tuck away in your knowledge bank. And then one girl climbed a tree and another fretted that she would never get down. All the rest played in the dirt, and there was my boy in the midst of it, talking and watching and, generally, being his happiest.

One of the great pleasures of being a mother is just watching your child be. Many mothers have said this, and I happily join the chorus. They are different from you, even if they are similar, and they gobsmack you with the way they tackle the world. It’s like an everyday miracle watching them laugh, really belly laugh. Or watching them learn kindness; watching them hug a friend without a moment’s thought because they love them, kissing you on the cheek, picking up something without prodding. It’s a downright shocker when they defy you soundly for the first time. You know it will happen, you think you’re prepared, then – wham! – they do it and you’re like, “who told you this was okay?” Then you go on loving them in those myriad parental ways. You learn about yourself, you grow, you regress, you change, and holy moly you pray.

You know, some nights I lay down thinking we’ve got this parenting thing down pat. (You can laugh, but you know the feeling.) Other nights I’m pretty sure the roof has caved and that all is a charade. You start envisioning black and white striped uniforms, ya know.

Maybe, if you know a parent who is doing a good job (not a perfect job, but a good one), tell them about it. Use a particular, something you see in their kids that they’ve been nurturing. It’s like having a realignment. We get some things twisted, get some knots in our muscles, with all these hard-work days, and we need someone to come along and say, you’re really doing the work here, and it shows; good job. This type of encouragement parents us parents, keeps us on the straight and narrow with our chin up. These are long, long days and minute years – isn’t that what they say? Sidle alongside us for the journey and we’ll love you forever.

The neighbors across the way are flying South, and so, selling their home and purging all the things that might weigh down their flight. One such thing is a precious grandfather clock. It was made, my neighbor said, by an Amish friend who owned a business many years ago. He has passed now, and his son is aging, but this clock is bright very new looking still. It's face holds the sun, for the day, and the moon, for the night. They bequeathed the clock to my parents, with instructions to pass it on to us one day, because my son fell in love with it when he saw it.

It's been quiet for over twenty years. It takes a specialty clock worker to come and align it right, make sure the weights fall correctly, before it will tick the time away. (My mom, ever faithful to these kinds of things, has already scheduled for someone to come out and look at it.) And, once a day, the owner must dawn the delicate pair of white gloves stowed in the body of the clock and gently pull on the weights, so that the time will remain pure.

It is interesting to think all that a person might amass in twenty years. Twenty being relatively short, when talking about a life, but in particular twenty, since that is how long these dear neighbors have lived across from my childhood home. I didn't know they had a treasured clock these twenty years. But all of us on the block knew that Clarence would get the tractor going after the first snow and plow everyone's drive. And that he would do this after every snow, so that no one ever worried about being late for work or stuck inside. He just did it. I knew, having watched their cat a time or two, that they doted on a little grey boy, whose name I have forgotten. Sweetest thing. Lost, after some years, like my own cat, when the coyotes got brave and started bravado-ing through the streets. They are the sweet neighbors. The raised on the farm neighbors. The ones that many in the neighborhood will miss, even if they didn't know them at all.

How does one gain such a reputation in twenty years? How does one gain it in more years or in less? I guess the same as anything else. One thing, one day at a time. And then you've got more than a Florida condo can hold, and you've got friends and acquaintances stalling your leave with visits, hailing beloved memories and harking you well - all these things fit for better homes than we'll ever see here.

Memories are wild doors; they are the kind you might find in a wonderfully imaginative book, full of wardrobes and woods. But sometimes, you strike your hand through the fur coats and are disappointed by the hardwood, a hollow thud against your expectant palm. The door is closed, and you do not know how to open it.

This was my experience post-Covid. No smell meant, unexpectedly, a lack of memory. You’ve likely been told that smell is the strongest link to memory. I don’t remember where I first heard that, but I do remember where I experienced it. I was walking down the main drag in my college campus once, thinking about anything, when a girl swept past. Her perfume wrapped around me like a grasp; it whooshed me into a large dorm room with a tornado of clothes and books on the floor, bright neon bedspreads, a molding pot of coffee on the bathroom counter, a pleasant, scrambled place, which I instantly knew was my freshman room. It was jarring. Like really teleporting for a fraction of a second, but jettisoning back as the full instant closed in. If I want to visit again, I can take myself to Victoria’s Secret, supposing they still have the scent.

Back when my taste and smell first changed, I joined a Facebook page called “Parosmia - Post COVID Support Group.” There are more than twenty-eight thousand members in it, from all over the world. Some make videos of themselves trying new foods to see whether or not they’ll taste awful. Some ask questions of the veterans. Some post advice – a vitamin that seems to be helping or a nasal spray that worked a wonder. It’s a sad group, really. Lots of hope and despondency. The other day, on a similar page, I read a woman’s angry rant about her father. He had heard her saying that meat and onions smelt the worst, so he got out the crockpot and set meat and onions to cook for the day like some kind of rotten potpourri for the poor pregnant woman.

I often contemplate leaving the group. It’s sad to stay; most people leave once they recover. It reminds me of nausea and relentless discomfort, my stomach turning even at the smell of bread. It reminds me, too, of desperate thankfulness. Talking to God over meals like sustenance meant everything, begging for a taste of something good, trying to grasp that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but that he does live by bread partly, and that such a thing isn’t always granted.

I guess I’m recalling the good of remembering. Not just passively recalling, but really being thrust into it. I am remembering remembrance. The way it can save a person in its most heroic moments. The way God set pillars of stones around plain land because something not plain had happened there, and the children needed to know.

The other day, I smelled Fall. Real, crisp, snapping Fall through an open window. It was a cluster of memories, and it was my present and maybe even my future, too, all settling over me as I easily pumped my leg, sitting in the rocker. Life is remembering itself, and I am remembering so many significant and insignificant things, appreciating them all.