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Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Christmas Market: A Poem

Smell is one of the strongest memory triggers. When I first returned to Germany, having lived there once as a little kid, my parents kept asking me if I remembered things. We visited downtown Stuttgart.

“Do you remember this?”

“No.”

We visited Reussenstein, an old ruined castle where I wandered off as a toddler and my dad thought I fell off a cliff but I ended up back at the car instead.

“Do you remember this?”

“No.”

Then we visited Hess Bakery, and the smell hit me, the sweet scent of fresh baked rolls, pretzels, and tarts hit me. Suddenly, I was four years old again, inhaling the familiar smells. For the first time in my life, I experienced a sort of déjà vu. I was home.

Another one of my favorite experiences living in Germany was visiting the Christmas markets downtown every winter. From the booths covered in garland selling sugar coated almonds, carved wooden ornaments, or fur coats to the ice skating rink and the giant Christmas tree, the market is full of wonders.

Although it may not be one of the places I remembered from being a kid, it’s full of wonderful smells, so I decide to connect some of them with memories. Some are real, and some are made up, but it’s an interesting connection—smell and memory. There are still moments when I inhale a random scent and suddenly I remember a summer evening at my grandparents when we caught fireflies or the feeling of rushing through a stuffy airport.


The Christmas Market


An explosion hits your senses before you even see it. Breath it in
because the cold is merely mixed with the warm memories
of a violin, soothing your gentle nerves and singing to your soul,
a pup curled on your lap as late autumn leaves linger then fall,
of a mother’s soft embrace, post-semester, welcome winter,
a warm blanket, plump pillow, and grateful snuggles,
all taken in a breath—of roasted sugar almonds.

Another strike begs you to silences. Shhh, the rush
of water on a sea-shelled shore, shhh, the shameless
grains of sand, how on earth did it get in there, shhh,
the bitter taste of salt stinging your nose, making you grimace,
shhh, the sun kisses your cheeks but don’t let him bite
or burn like the stinging jelly, man should have watched
my step. Shhh, stupid macaroons, can’t say we all like them.

Bam! A dinner table filled with the clatter and chatter
of relatives and distant friends, uncomfortable conversations
and shapes and sizes, heaven forbid you should stick your nose
in a book, travel to a time they ate the same food and made
your troubles look like a walk in the park, round dinner plates
and thin wine glasses, sticky juices and brazen spice,
would you care for a cut of pork?

***

Let’s chat! Have you ever been to an outdoor Christmas market before? What’s one smell that triggers the strongest memory for you?


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4 comments:

  1. The table conversations line made me giggle. I just sat right across from you when a "zinger" was delivered...wished so much I could have helped more...
    The market references brought memories of you holding my hand looking at tiny animal and dolls at the Stuttgart market. It was dark and slightly misty. You were telling me about ones you had at home and about Beanie Babies :)

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    1. It seems like it's too long since I've been back to the Christmas market in Germany. I'm glad my poem could draw memories of your own. Thanks for your comment!

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  2. Replies
    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.

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