Even 20 years later, when I bite into a tootsie roll or lick a tootsie pop, the smell and taste remind me of my grandpa and I am transported to his foyer in the house at the boatyard on Orchard Beach road in Annapolis where — having a sweet tooth but barely any teeth left himself– he kept a jar of candy full for my brother and me to munch on.
After the smell of the tootsie pop, I can smell the musty dankness of the house caused by the leaky roof, then I can smell the coffee that’s been sitting brewing on low all day, the lingering cigarette, and even faint tobacco pipe that was my great-grandfather’s. I hear the creak of the floor and the slam of the screen door.
I close my eyes and I can see the sunlight coming in through the window glowing yellow and green reflecting off the bushes outside in front of the house and through the glass apothecary jar full of colored marbles on the windowsill. I can hear the halyards clanking on the sailboats at the docks and if I listen hard enough, I can hear the creek water gently lapping at their hulls. I can hear a band saw or maybe the table saw going in grandpa’s wood shop fabricating something for someone’s boat that’s sitting on the railway in the hot summer sun. When the saw goes quiet I can hear the murmur of one of the AM talk shows on the radio in his shop.
A breeze comes through the screen and I can smell that briny, heavy summer creek smell, hot and damp, that’s laced with the scent of fish heads that have been left in the sun where the fishermen set them aside after cleaning their morning catch, saving them for baiting the crab pot.
I hear a pick up truck rumble into the driveway, likely one of my grandpas friends–part of a vast, but rapidly dwindling community of men who make their living off the water of Chesapeake Bay.*
* see more about the vanishing Chesapeake Bay Watermen I discuss in a previous post here.