In Marcel Proust’s A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, the adult narrator eats some cake soaked in tea and is transported back to his childhood, thusly:
No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.
I had my madeleine moment yesterday when
I took the dog took me for a walk. It was smell, not taste:
I can’t say, as Proust did, that having inhaled the lilac smell, the vicissitudes of life became indifferent to me, but I was immediately transported back to that town in North Ontario.
There I was, in Grade Three, crooked teeth, crooked bangs, walking to the bus stop at the end of our road, clutching a bunch of lilacs, a gift for my favourite teacher. My mother, stale and tired from her night shift at the hospital, gave me a pair of scissors and I cut a bunch from the lilac bush near the side door. Then my mother wet the stems and wrapped them in tin foil. I can almost feel the sharp folds against my fingers. I should have given those flowers to my mother.
What’s your Proustian memory?