By Barbara J Eikmeier
It was the first really hot day of summer. My car didn’t have a chance to cool down between errands. I was hot. My car was hot. Then I stepped into the CVS pharmacy. The blast of cool air from the air conditioned store hit me at the door. In that instant I had a flashback to Clark’s Drugstore, Willows, California, in the early 1970s. Situated on the corner of Sycamore and Butte Streets, I don’t even know why I went there in my teen summers. I certainly didn’t have money to buy anything, and my friends didn’t either. I think we went for the air conditioning! The feeling of the cool air in CVS brought me immediately back to Clark’s Drugstore. It was a fleeting moment, but I liked it.
I walked along Angel Falls Trail. The wide sidewalk was in complete shade, streaks of mud ran across the low spots – a reminder of the heavy rains from the previous night. I rounded the last bend before the bridge and heard the rumble of the water rolling over the falls, which always runs wild after a rainstorm. In a nanosecond it took me back to the Van Duzen River near Fortuna, California. It was 1983. I was a college student. My boyfriend kayaked that river. I often accompanied him. With my feet dangling in the cool, clear water, I studied my nursing lessons while he ran the river. I could hear the rumble of the last waterfall he would clear, just there, where the river curved, out of sight but for the sound of spilling water. Angel Falls Trail brought me back to that place.
I saw him as I left the gym. He was wearing a black cowboy hat and stood studying the blooming bushes. He looked up at me, breathed deeply and said, “They smell amazing!”
I said, “Oak Leaf Hydrangeas. They just started blooming.”
He said, “Oak Leaf?” I walked near the plants and showed him how the shape of the leaf was similar to an oak leaf. He said, “Thank you. I want to get one for my yard. I came around the corner and the smell reminded me so much of my grandma’s house.”
The feeling of air conditioning on a hot day. The sound of a waterfall after a rainstorm. The smell of a blooming shrub. They are things that take us back in time, unbidden, in a flash, sometimes jolting us with the clarity of a memory.
Barbara J. Eikmeier is a quilter, writer, student of quilt history, and lover of small-town America. Raised on a dairy farm in California, she enjoys placing her characters in rural communities.