Cheese and Macaroni

I, honestly, cannot remember what brought me here. I was working and suddenly I had this intense flashback to something I ate when I was a child.

Kraft egg noodle and chicken dinner.

Do you remember this?

It was right by the macaroni and cheese, but the box was brown, not blue. It was delicious. I liked it better than mac-and-cheese, but for some reason we didn’t have it very often.

It popped into my head and I finally decided to google it to see if they still made it. I would have bought it online, just to try it again and see what sort of memories it brought back. I also wonder if it tastes like I remember it tasting. Or smells like I remember it smelling.

I even tried to find a picture of it, but I couldn’t. Apparently, no one took pictures of it in the 1980s. However, I did find this:

It looked exactly like that, except it was brown and instead of “Cheddar Cheese” it said “Chicken”.

Then, I did find this:

Apparently, in the late 1990s they revamped the box. However, in 2009 they discontinued the product altogether. Isn’t that sad? If you do a web search for the product you will read testimonials and reviews of people begging Kraft to bring the product back.

There are stories of mothers cooking it for children, the memories it invokes, the idea of it being the ultimate comfort food. There is even a Facebook page dedicated to bringing it back.  I empathize with them all. It is a strong memory for me. It is the taste of my childhood. I don’t have a ton of food memories from when I was a kid. Like most kids, eating was that thing your mother made you do in between bouts of play. My food memories are mostly because of the story. Like when my dad brought Tabbouleh home from work on a night he was in charge of dinner. It was awful. But he made us eat it. We couldn’t leave the table until we ate it. I think it was the latest we ever stayed at the table in my childhood. Or the week my mother went to Mexico with friends and my dad bought a ham the day she left and then proceeded to feed us ham for seven straight days.

But those are rare for me. For most children, I think. We didn’t focus on what we ate, we just ate. However, I can clearly recall going to the grocery store with my mother and asking her to buy the egg noodle chicken dinner, instead of just macaroni and cheese. And she would, but she didn’t always. It was not a staple at our house. It was special. It was a treat.

Like I said, I don’t know how I got here, but it was a nice little side trip back into the 1980s. If this evoked memories for you, go to youtube and look up Kraft macaroni and cheese commercials. I was shocked at how many of them I clearly remember.

“Make some Kraft macaroni and cheese, PLEASE!” They had a jingle. I had forgotten it until I heard it. It’s there, but do you remember this one?

My brothers and I used to sit at the table and do that to each other with our spoons whenever we had mac and cheese. Clear as day I can recall that, sitting at the dining room table, in front of the patio door. Mom would serve us and we would hold up our spoons and pretend to hypnotize each other and get each other to say “cheese and macaroni” instead. And we’d flit our eyes back and forth like that until we were overcome with the giggles.

Come on, Kraft, you’re as popular as you’ve ever been. Bring back my savory chicken dinner. PLEASE.

Scent of a Woman

I’m pretty sensitive to scent. I also tend to react quite strongly to scent. I can tell you, with no hesitation, that I detest the smell of patchouli and I can pick it out every time. I can even tell you if a perfume as a patchouli base, that’s how offensive it is to me.

But, in my own life, I’m a scent experimenter. I rarely wear the same scent from day to day. If you’ve been to my house, you’ve probably seen my Bath and Body Works scented lotions collection. I could almost open my own store. And if you open my medicine cabinet, you’ll see the many perfumes that I own. But, open the drawer below and you’ll see dozens of tiny perfume samples ( I love tiny perfume samples, I’d rather have those than full size bottles, so I always have something new to try).

Each day I try something new. I’ll layer on a scented lotion. Then add a body spray…sometimes matching, sometimes not. Then I’ll choose a perfume to top it off. Sounds stinky and horrible, right? Wrong.  I’m pretty good at this and I have found that if the scents all please me, they’ll usually work well together.

Today, I went a little out there. Must be the leopard print shirt I’m wearing! I started with Wild Honeysuckle lotion, added Cherry Blossom body spray (one of my all-time favorite scents in the universe) and then opted for the tiny samples of perfume. I dug toward the bottom of the pile to the ones I wear less frequently. Typically these are ones I like less. I found Ralph Lauren’s Romance. This is a strong perfume. It is not something I would typically wear. It is a bit heavier, a deeper scent, with floral undertones. Not my typical style, but it came in a pack.

I sniffed it and thought, hmm, that could actually work.

So I put it on. I was careful to go light, in case it wasn’t something I enjoyed.

Turns out, good thing I did because it is really strong! I can pretty much always smell my own scent (many people can’t) and this one is bordering on overpowering.

Here’s the thing, though, all morning I kept thinking I smelled…familiar. At first I thought it was just similar to a combo I must have used before. But, it kept nagging at me; like I should know this scent. Finally, I stopped what I was doing and closed my eyes and breathed in, just letting my mind go. Then–BAM! In a huge rush, it hit me.

I smell like my Gramma Conway.

My gramma was one of my favorite people in the whole world. She and I were very close. She was part of an old generation where women dressed every day, in an outfit. Coordinating clothes, matching accessories and shoes, even the jewelry went with specific outfits. And she’d dress like this to go to the grocery store. She was an old-fashioned lady. But she was very special. I remember once, when I was young, talking to her about her smell. I must have said I liked it or something and she said she can never smell it on herself. I still remember that, distinctly, because I can. I have thousands of memories of her in my mind, many about fashion, most about books.

The interesting thing about this is, she died fourteen years ago. I find it amazing that I still remember what she smells like, or, probably more accurately that I still remember what I remember her smelling like. Smells like any other memory, fade and twist and change in the mind of the holder. She may have smelled nothing at all like what I remember, but my memory carries a distinct scent that I identify as belonging to her. Whether it does or not matters not at all, it is the scent I associate with her and with many happy memories.

Today, I’m walking around in this world smelling like my dead grandmother. That’s a bit strange (especially when I write it like that) but it makes me happy. When I move and the air around me carries a whiff of that scent, it curls into my brain and wakes up memories that haven’t visited in a while.

I remember that when I came home from college to visit her, I told her about this boy I was friends with, Jason. She said, “is he Catholic?” And I said I didn’t know. She paused, for just a moment and said, “is he handsome?” And I said yes and we laughed together.

I remember when I was in the 4th grade I went to her house. A pair of her heels were by the back door (that was odd, she did not leave things lying around) and I immediately tried to put them on. I’d been trying on her shoes for my whole life. That year, in the 4th grade, they no longer fit. She had itty-bitty tiny feet and I’ve been blessed with tugboats. I was 9 years old when I could no longer fit into her adult shoes. And she said, “well, at least I’m still taller than you!” She was very petite. It was only one more year before I surpassed her in height as well.

I remember that we used to play “bar” in their basement, my siblings and me. They had a built in wet bar, fully stocked. They were high-quality entertainers, my grandparents. There was this bottle of whiskey that always sat out on the top of the bar (the rest were below) and it was encased in a bottle wrap that was shaped like a poodle. A black poodle with a diamond studded collar. I was in love with that poodle. In my youth, I didn’t even care or probably realize that there was booze inside, I just loved it. After my grandmother passed away, I said I really wanted that poodle–and he’s living in my home now. He sits in my kitchen, just above my liquor cabinet (no bar for me) and he makes me smile whenever my eyes fall upon him.

I could go on for days about the things I remember. A million stories. But, for today, I’m just happy to briefly flit into the past and remember this wonderful woman that I still miss, so very much.

Tell me, what is your strongest scent related memory?

“Many Years From Now, When I’ve Lost My Looks A Little”

This June, it will be 15 years since I graduated high school. That is not really that long. Not so very far away.

Yet, somehow, I remember almost nothing. High school, to me, comes across like a story I read. I read it, digested it, and promptly forgot about it. If you remind me of some of the plot, I may be able to dredge up memories, but mostly, there’s just nothing there.

It’s not that I hated high school or that it was particularly hard or damaging. It just didn’t matter that much to me. Maybe I felt like I never belonged there, like there was something else, something more, waiting just outside those walls. I certainly remember everything that happened since in finite detail. I’m known among my friends for my incredible detail. But when it comes to high school…

That is not to say I have no memories. Just few. The ones I have are distinct. Like a snapshot. Just a specific memory, taken completely out of context. For example, I remember quite clearly that the first time we nicknamed my high school crush (to this day, he is still referred to as Island Boy) Elena and I were on a bus.

She mentioned, in an email about us visiting the Walker. I flashed on that moment and thought we must have been taking the bus to the Walker–way back then. She said no–we were visiting the Guthrie. I don’t remember ever going to the Guthrie in school. I’ve been, several times, but don’t remember it being for school. I said, “what did we see”? She said that we saw “A Raisin in the Sun” and “A Doll’s House”, but that particular time, the time of the nickname, it was to see “A Doll’s House”.

And, as soon as she said it, I remember it perfectly. Riding the bus, it was winter [Edit** I just looked it up and “A Doll’s House opened at the Guthrie October 16, 1996 and ran through the end of the year. So it really was winter], I believe, and very cold. That, perhaps, is how we got on the subject of traveling to islands–the conversation that forever sparked the nickname. I remember that play. I still don’t remember seeing “A Raisin in the Sun”, but, if I’m not mistaken, we also saw “Playboy of the Western World” [Edit**I can’t find a listing for “A Raisin in the Sun, so either Elena is mistaken, or it wasn’t at the Guthrie, however “Playboy of the Western World was there in 1997. I also saw a listing for “She Stoops to Conquer” and I’m pretty sure I saw that, too! That’s a lot of Guthrie plays]. But, none of that was there until Elena told me about it.

She, my friend, remembers everything. She knows the names of people we went to school with. She has stories about them, or at least can describe them. At graduation this winter, a man came up to me and said hello. He recognized me when I was on stage. He checked the program, saw my name, and was confirmed. He introduced himself and told me how he knew me. We went to junior high and high school together.

I don’t remember him at all. AT ALL. His name sounded vaguely familiar, but that is it. After graduation that night, I called Elena and said, “who is Matt T___?” And she knew, right away and talked about him.

Just so we’re clear,I remember that time in my life. I remember the jobs I worked and places I traveled and friends I had and things (stupid and fun) that I did, but I don’t really remember much about high school. The people. The events. Just my few significant memories, like I’ve pushed out everything else that once existed there. Who knows? Maybe it was because a brain can hold only so much and mine is pushing the limits of its storage capabilities. But, when I hear people talk about high school, friends, family, etc. I wonder why everyone else remembers that time and I really don’t.

It’s an odd phenomenon, for sure. Maybe it might be worth my time to attend my 15 year reunion. Of course, if I go, Elena will have to go with me, or I won’t remember anyone.

Computer Memory

In our age of technology, there is something to be said for the knowledge a computer has. In many ways, I think my computer might know me better than anyone.

What is funny to me, I have been mentally writing this post for months (but I am so behind) and then I had a conversation, with Kelly, that made me realize that she, too, knows of this phenomenon and recognizes it.

My computer knows me so well that after a single keystroke, it knows exactly where in this vast web of knowledge, I wish to travel. Have you noticed this? Just typing one letter will get you the website that you visit the most that begins with that letter.

A= Since it is rare that a day goes by that I don’t visit this, my most favorite of shopping sites, it is not at all surprising that this is the result. Not really surprising, hmm?

C=  again, not at all surprising. I check his website daily to see what is happening with my favorite celebrity. I look up a lot of words, I can’t stand not knowing what a word means. . Just ask, Andrew, Sara, KB, Zack, and Ritz, you do NOT want to play Scrabble against me.  I must have a lot of parties! This is where I store all of my online photos, so it makes sense.  I use Yahoo as my home page, because of my email, but for searching, I prefer Google.  The home page of Hennepin County libraries, where I used to work and where I still get a TON of books.  JC Penney online. This was the only one that was surprising to me! I had no idea I went there that much.  Kelly’s old blog. It was a site I visited daily. Even though she no longer uses it, no K sites have sprung up to take its place, so it still has the honor.  My old blog. I still visit this site all the time, because it has 500+ posts of mine. I reference it frequently and often go back and read old posts of mine.

M=Surprisingly, I do not have an M site. This was shocking to me, but I thought and thought and can’t think of a single site I visit that begins with M.  This is a baby name site. I think I’ve mentioned how obsessed I am with baby names, I go here often.  I do go to this site all the time, but I am not sure why. The deals just aren’t that good, but I just keep hoping.  My all-time favorite trivia website. I visit multiple times each day to bone up on more trivia and to prove, yet again, how smart I am.

T=  This is one of my favorites. My computer knows me so well, it realizes that while I have a twitter account, I’d rather visit CK’s than my own or any of the 50 other people I follow.   this is the site address for the Washington County library. I visit the library at least once a week in person. Electronically, more like 3-5 times a week.

X=who visits a website that starts with X?  home of my email. once each day I go to login, then it stays open all day long.  a fun site for creating custom greeting cards, t-shirts, etc. I don’t visit that often, but it is Z for pete’s sake!

Then, of course we have the two letter combo packs.

tv- gets me

co-gets me Ramsey County Library

wa-gets me Watch Series

em-gets me my work email.

ci-gets me St. Paul Public Library

sa- to pay one student loan

ac-to pay the other

we-to visit my bank (I go here nearly every other day, but it still doesn’t eclipse the number of times I visit the library, wow!)

And, honestly, there are probably dozens more. It’s like a call log on a cell phone. You don’ t need to know people’s number anymore, so long as you have your phone. You don’t need to know web addresses anymore, so long as you use the same computer.

I like that my computer knows me and my habits so well. It is reassuring to me that with a single keystroke, I can get exactly where I need to go. Minimum effort for maximum result. Exactly how I like it!  But, of course, this increases my dependency on my computer. My mom’s just broke a couple weeks ago, and I can’t help thinking…how would I survive?

And, though I know that I would, my computer and I have a relationship. She knows me and I take care of her. If something happened I could move on, but it would take a long time for another to know me this well.

All hail the age of technology!