Thursday, April 19, 2012


            Many things bring back memories of my childhood in Florida. Among them are sights and sounds. One of the best and quickest ways for me to travel back? The smells.

           Where does the smell of pine trees take you? It takes me back to Christmas morning in just a few seconds.
The smell of chicken roasting? That’s the ticket to memories of big noisy family dinners at my grandparents’ house.

Suntan lotion? I’m back baking on the beach as a teenager with my friends, radios humming at our heads.

            To me, few smells trigger memories of summers past more than the aroma of newly-cut grass. I drove through a cloud of it yesterday and smiled. One of my chores as a teenager was mowing the front lawn. I knew the smell of fresh cut grass up close and personal.
            St. Augustine grass seems to be the main type of grass growing in South Florida. It grows well in hot sunny spots and in the sand that covers most of the state. When I lived in St. Louis for a few years, I became vaguely aware that St. Augustine is not universally grown and a friend from Kentucky recently pointed out that not only was it not the grass of choice in northern climes, it was considered a weed. To him, the fescues and bluegrasses of his native state are not as coarse, and are more appealing and easier on the feet.

            But back to memories of mowing the weeds um, lawn. I fussed about it most of the time, but I actually liked it. Don’t tell my mother.  Let her have her fond memories of forcing me to do hard, manual labor in the hot, Florida sun.

            It was a challenge to mow the lawn in precise lines while ducking under the Florida holly tree in the front yard. When mockingbirds were nesting, I had to push the mower with one hand while swinging a dog leash over my head to keep the protective birds from taking chunks out of my scalp. The cut grass would turn my white sneakers a beautiful green and the insects would make my ankles and calves scratch. Did I say I actually liked this?

            When I was finished, I’d sit in a lawn chair on the driveway with a cold lemonade or tall glass of ice water and cool off. The mower made ticking sounds beside me as it cooled off, too. The lawn was once again neat and tidy and I was once again covered in grass and rubbing my ankles together to scratch the itch.
            That smell.

            It promised long, salty days at the beach followed by barbeques in the backyard. It promised Fourth of July celebrations, firecrackers and sparklers, Girl Scout camp and late night swims in the backyard pool. It promised vacations to cool mountains and cold mountain streams. It promised tossing and turning to try to get to sleep under a fan barely moving the warm night air. It promised the sound of crickets carrying on their quiet, insistent concert in hibiscus bushes outside of bedroom windows. It promised long hours chasing tiny flashes from lightning bugs, a mayonnaise jar in one hand, metal lid with holes punched in it in the other.  It promised coconut scented suntan lotion and big sunhats, warm breezes and clear skies, and lying on blankets in backyards at night giggling with friends and looking at stars. 

            Yes, the smell of newly cut grass still makes me smile at the sweetness of summers past and promises kept.
(c) Copyright 2012 Ruth Hartman Berge
Pictures from Photobucket


  1. Hi. I just came across your blog while looking for photos of the Kelsey City gates to show my husband. I've read several of your posts. I grew up in Riviera Beach and PBG in the late 60s and 70s and am familiar with so many of the places you write about. Reading about places like the Dairy Belle almost brings tears to my eyes. I had forgotten about the concrete tables. I was just down in the area last week and went by the Dairy Belle! I used to work at the rather historic West Palm Beach Public Library (down the street from your Comeau Bldg.) and it is gone, of course. Anyway, it's been a real joy to read your posts and I plan to check out more of them.

    1. Judy: So glad you've enjoyed the postings! It was a great time and place to be a kid, wasn't it? I loved the West Palm Libary - living in North Palm Beach, I didn't get there often, but I can still remember curling up in a chair with a good book and happily waiting for my mom. Thanks for stopping by :)

  2. Hi Ruth! Saw your link on Tameri's blog. The smell of cut grass also brings me back--even the sound of a lawn mower starting up will suddenly make me think of being a kid on a summer morning. :)

    1. Hey, Colleen! Anyone who enjoys Tameri's blog is someone I can relate to! Thanks for coming over and checking Summertime out and I'm glad my little story brought back some of your summertime memories :)

  3. I did not grow up here, but find the ways you describe your memories evoke my own. There is much universal to life, isn't there? Thank you.

    1. Thank YOU, anon. I'm glad your memories were sparked by Summertime :)