Childhood memories stay surprisingly vibrant throughout time, and they have a way of creeping in suddenly with the smallest trigger. Like the scent of peanut butter chips.
My maternal grandparents, Nonny and Poppy, lived in a beautiful small town in New Jersey. My family flew back east to see our relatives fairly regularly, and I loved going to their house. To this day I remember so many details of that house… the big, brightly colored flowers on the kitchen wallpaper, the wrought iron railing going up the stairs from the living room, the dark den where my grandfather’s recliner sat. There was an unspoken agreement that his chair was off limits except for special occasions. It was where he sat to watch TV with his scotch on the rocks.
They had a screened in porch that looked out at a yard with giant trees. Nonny, being such an animal lover, would feed the squirrels peanuts, so there were always a couple of them lingering nearby, ever hopeful that they might get a treat.
A total novelty to us west-coast kids, there were lightning bugs. They don’t exist on our coast, so each summer it was SO exciting to go out at night and see little fairy lights flash on, off, and on again all around us. We would catch a few in a jar to look at, marveling at their bright little rear ends, amazing and odd creatures, then let them go. They were far more magical when flying, a bit scary when close up, the long black carapace and red head not quite as ethereal as their moments of light in mid-air.
I remember the brightly colored guest room, peacock blue and grass green elements, and a clown figurine with balloons. I remember a painting or drawing of a Siamese cat downstairs, long and slender with a dark mask. Fly swatters always hung behind the door in the kitchen going out to the screened porch.
I remember my little brother getting a bath in the kitchen sink, a molded piece of light yellow foam holding him in place. I remember trips to a creek near the house where we would catch tiny black snails in a jar to keep by our beds during the visit. I remember a wind-up toy, a track on top with a police car and a robber’s car, a siren moaning with each turn of the handle.
And as for the peanut butter chips? One small drawer in the kitchen was just at the right height for curious, sugar-loving grandchildren to reach. And inside that drawer were chips for baking. Chocolate, sometimes butterscotch, but always peanut butter (peanut butter was its own food group in my Poppy’s eyes). I remember sneaking into that drawer often to pull out two chips at a time. I would seal them together with a dab of water, one of those odd little recipes kids come up with that makes food instantly seem SO gourmet. Once the seal dried, I would pop the twin chips in my mouth. Instant heaven.
Though my grandparents passed away when we were still fairly young, I have such strong memories of the time I spent with them, and in their home. And each time I catch a whiff of peanut butter chips, I’m flooded with wonderful images of that place in time with them.