I Cannot Stand the Smell of Gingerbread

On Grief, Loss and Time

A lot of times when you mind wanders back on a time of loss, it finds the painful moments. The moments where the good took a sharp turn and became the bad – the type of bad that lingers and leaves scars. Trauma has a nasty ability to carve those bad moments into your brain. And they rear their heads at the most inopportune moments.

But also at the moments you expect them to. And those moments aren’t any easier.

The smell of gingerbread makes me feel ill. It gives me headaches and nausea. It’s a trigger for me. And being a child of German decent… Well that makes things interesting. It’s a staple this time of year. And I’ve adjusted and adapted and most times am fine. But some days all it takes is one sniff and I’m back there.

I’m back to the car with my sis and mom, and the giant gingerbread church in the backseat. Back to my Oma’s apartment, knocking excitedly to get her to come down to see what my sister has won. Back to the look of devistation when she opens the door. My heart races and I hear her words, the tears, the sorrow. The switch from happy moment to sad moment that will linger for a long time coming. Then the crush of the gingerbread church when the car turns a corner, now loaded down with an extra person, racing over to my great aunts place to be with her in the moment of loss. Where I will hide under the glass table and be stricken with fear. And when we get home, much later, I will go through bags and bags of icing sugar in desperation to put the church back together. As if that will make things better. And my dad will help me, despite knowing the attempt will be futile, accepting that it’s just something 13 year old me has to do to help cope.

It will take years for me to accept that my aunt and uncle died in that plane crash. Despite searching online years later, and finding the reports on the ntsb website, a part of me held firmly on to the idea that it wasn’t real. Denial can be strong when you don’t want to face up to it. Some members of the family will end up taking that pain and making it the way of life. For a while I do this too. In 2001 the pain was still raw when mixed with moving away and starting school in a new city. Throw in the disaster of 9/11 and I will wallow for a while again.

21 years ago, today. A lifetime, really. They’ve been gone longer then they were alive to me. The memories, both good and bad, have faded. They’re not gone. But they’re not as prevalent as they used to be.

22 years ago there were many happy moments. My parents pulled my sister and I out of school for an extended vacation. We drove there and spent a week being spoiled kids. Playing in the pool. Running around. Playing games. Feeding the dog endless amounts of animal crackers. Giggling, splashing. Singing along to ABBA. Going to the beach and chasing waves, building sandcastles. Hugs and a trip to the movies (still remember my aunt crying during Angels in the Outfield). Shopping. More singing and copying ABBA to tapes for the trip home. Toys. Fresh oranges from the trees. Trips to the airport with my uncle and dad, sitting on the hood of the car eating ice cream cones the size my head, watching the planes. A flight in the plane, high over the houses and every backyard had a pool. Being teased for passing out during the flight. Rare steaks and tracing my uncles tattoo with my fingers. Being given a little ring as a gift from my aunt.

Those are the memories I want to remember.


Categories: feelings, quiet, family

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