View Full Version : Fragrance and memory

11-10-06, 13:52
I just bought 3 cubic meters (abt. 105 cubic feet) of firewood (birch). Now I have carried it all in to the shed. It was hard work and my lumbago woke up and said "Hey buddy, I'm still here so be careful".

Anyway, feeling the warm fragrance of dry birch while I stacked the wood in the shed, I suddenly remembered my uncle John.

He emigrated in 1925 when he was 21 years of age. He worked as a farm hand, a lumber jack, tailor and carpenter. In 1971 he visited the old country, for the first and only time together with his wife Aino, who was born in the Carelian isthmus.

Uncle John spoke only Pedersöre dialect when he emigrated, When he returned he had almost forgot it, but he spoke English without any accent and Carelian Finnish dialect which he had learned from his wife. Aino being a housewife, who never worked outside the home, spoke pure Finglish.

When they visited us at our summer house in Jakobstad we took a stroll outside. The neighbor was burning birch in his fireplace. When uncle John felt the fragrance of the birch smoke he stopped, took his pipe out of his mouth and sniffed. He was silent for a few seconds. Then he smiled and said "björkvään" (birch wood). And then he got his old dialect back in a couple of days.

Isn't amazing what the "nose memory" can do? My uncle remembered his childhood language and I, in my turn, rememebered him and that magic moment 35 years ago. All that was needed was some birch.


June Pelo
11-10-06, 21:13
Sune's mention of birch wood brought back memories of my father. He loved birch trees and wanted some planted in his yard because he remembered all the birch trees from his childhood in Finland. So my brother bought three birch trees and planted them outside Dad's bedroom window. He was 17 when he came to the US but he retained his distinctive Swedish dialect all his life. We kids used to have such fun asking him to say certain words in English and then we'd laugh and laugh at the way he said them. One year when I visited Finland, I recorded messages from him to relatives, in Swedish. When I played the messages to our relatives, they were amazed that he could still speak "their" Swedish perfectly after 60 years.


Alice Finnerty
13-10-06, 03:22
Sune and June
Thank You for sharing those stories.
They are delightful.