It may seem odd to some that in a love letter to science, I’m writing to you, since you’ve been gone now for over three years. But today you came back to me, and if it wasn’t through science I don’t know how it happened.
Your namesake grandson is home, as you may know–I’m not about to go all “I know you’re watching from on high,” although I refuse to eliminate the possibility. Anyway, he’s home for a few weeks before he moves to his apartment. The other day he made a pasta salad and I liked it so much I thought I’d try to replicate it today. In preparation, last night I grilled him on the ingredients–how much pasta? How much salami? Any must-have other ingredients? Yes, he said. Mushrooms, artichokes and roasted red peppers.
I think I may have made pasta salad on occasion when he was a kid but I’m certain I never used roasted red peppers, because various other food-consumers in the household do not like peppers, thank you very much. So I haven’t opened a jar of roasted red peppers in…well, in a very long time. And yet there I was today, pulling those beautiful red peppers, quite tightly packed, out of their little glass jar.
And there you were, too.
You were at the kitchen table. It was lunchtime on a Saturday, and on the dining room table were a host of delicious, familiar ingredients: a long loaf of crispy Italian bread, deli-paper-wrapped slices of salami and provolone, and you, fishing (with your oversized fingers) for roasted red peppers out of the jar.
You made this “better keep myself from drooling over this uber-tasty food” sound, and you made this face I can see as clearly as if you were sitting next to me, today: wide-eyed, purse-mouthed, anticipatory. All for our entertainment, of course. All out of a true love for salami and provolone and an even truer love for a weekend lunch, together.
I don’t know exactly what memories are–like what they ARE, in the world. But they seem to me to be some extension of consciousness, which is the world’s best science question, right? What is the biochemistry of consciousness?
And what triggers a memory? If you’re lucky, and I am, it’s love. And then it’s something else, too: a smell, the reach of fingers into a small jar, the taste of a Saturday afternoon.
Thanks for stopping by today, Dad. Come again soon.