Of Airplanes and Alegbra

It is often said that smell is the sense most closely linked to our memories. I don’t doubt it. If I could, I would collect the scents most precious to me – the smell of my childhood home, the scent of a newborn baby, the green fragrance of a lake on a summer’s morning – and bottle them up and preserve them for all time. (And probably share them on my blog. Because that is what we bloggers do.)

But I’ve often marveled at the power of sounds, how certain noises instantly evoke a season or moment in our lives.

This afternoon, while Teyla was napping, I snuggled under my own down comforter. I was enjoying the peace of a cool summer’s day. A soft breeze fluttered through my bedside window. Even with my eyes closed, I could see the sun playing hide-and-seek behind a long line-up of clouds.

And then I heard it – the buzz of a small airplane high in the sky.

I was immediately transported back to 10th grade algebra class, a class that was as out of reach of my mental energies as that plane was out of my physical grasp. Apparently, the private school I had just shed, like a still-wet butterfly shedding her cocoon, had done little to prepare me academically for the world outside. (Although I had a firm grasp of how evil rock and roll music was, in case anyone was asking.)

So I sat in algebra, the new girl who stood out even in a class of 500, and struggled to comprehend the theorems our kind teacher wrote on the overhead with blue and green marker. And since algebra was right after lunch, and filled with so much afternoon sun the blind were often half-pulled down, I often felt the blanket of drowsiness settle itself on my shoulders.

I would blink, ever more slowly. The kind teacher’s words made as much sense as the wah-wah-wah-ing of adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon. I would decide to rest my head on my arms, just for a minute, down by the paper where my pencil was dutifully scratching the symbols on the screen. I could smell the wood of the pencil, fresh from a recent sharpening. The trees right outside the window whispered in the fragrant spring air.

And then I would hear it. Ever so faintly, the drone of a plane engine. It would get closer, buzz overhead, then fade away, almost imperceptibly.

I would struggle to open my eyes and write, “A positive integer is next to the tree leaves and the airplane green.”

And then I would awake to the jarring ring of the bell.


  1. A beautiful piece of writing, my friend. The naptime stars aligned, perhaps?
    I had to laugh--I too attended a Christian school that educated me well in the evils of rock & roll. But the rules of Physics? Not so much.

  2. That's funny. And I totally agree about sounds and scents.

    One thing about your post puzzles me...the oxymoron "cool summer's day." Never heard of one of those :-)

  3. Oooh, this piece made me sleepy--and in that creative "I'm feeling your writing" kind of way. Algebra, ugh. A nap, good. You made the right choice.

  4. Just thought of Algebra pretty much makes me sick to my stomach. There is a reason I teach English!