The Smell of Childhood.
I poked my head out the door and saw a massive hog charging toward me, snorting with fierce energy, chased by the butcher. I was nine years old, newly moved to Germany from Arizona, and living with my family in a "Gasthaus" -- the 1960's version of an Airbnb.
Those years were steeped in the smells of rural, village life, and not just the stench of pigs, but also the fragrance of backyard flower gardens, apple orchards blossoming in the spring sunshine, and wagons piled high with fresh cut hay, upon which we kids caught rides as soft as a cloud.
I eventually returned to the United States and normal American life. But always, somewhere beneath expectations heaped on me like piles of laundry, was the dream that one day I would again live outside the U.S..
That day came when I turned 62 and the young headhunter said my only chance of finding work was to "de-age" myself, beginning with expunging all evidence of my 17 years with IBM.
"All of it?" I asked.
"All of it," she said. "And consider dyeing your hair."
I never did either thing. As the old song goes: "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away." The time had come for me to walk away from what I was, and into what I was becoming.
I began to wander, shedding my belongings like sandbags from a hot air balloon. I said goodbye to friends and family. I placed my sandals wherever I could, from the backstreets of Havana to the snows of Norway. I met a dark-haired Italian beauty in a Portuguese hostel, a pirate, her bronze skin tattooed with a life's journeys on the wine dark seas. She cast a voodoo spell on me, a black art she learned from a wizened African witch doctor. I fell in love. When Covid hit, the pirate and I escaped to the only country open to the both of us, Turkey, where we live now in a tiny house overlooking the Mediterranean.
Fuchsia plumes of Bougainvillea cascade over the stone walls to our house. The turquoise sea beckons us daily into its clear waters, where iridescent fish pirouette among the broken stones of man's fallen empires. In the mornings I write, and in the afternoons we hike the sand gray mountains, their stony cliffs hollowed with the tombs of ancient peoples. We sip black Turkish coffee in the shade of pines, their branches whispering with the ghosts of Lycians, whose restless souls still wander these ancient lands.
We seek out authentic Turkish life, found off the beaten path and away from the tourists. On a recent trip, a flock of sheep meandered by our rented room, the clank of their neck bells peppering the mosque's call to prayer. The pungent smell of cow manure wafted into our open window.
"What does that smell like to you?" the pirate asked, her nose wrinkling.
"My childhood," I said.
Brant Huddleston is the author of three books, scads of short stories and other mad musings, and the host of a podcast on how death taught him to thrive in the second half of life. A former rock & roll guitarist, classic car restoration mechanic, tropical fish tank cleaner, and sales professional with IBM, he now lives with a pirate lady on Turkey's turquoise coast. You can find him at www.dancepastsunset.com