Sweet Home Jacksonville

dames point

Dames Point Bridge


Late this afternoon as I was driving home from work, I began thinking about our city. My drive home takes me from the southside of town to the northside of town following SR-9A. Most afternoons I roll down my windows just long enough to let some of the heat out and the air conditioning to get to pumpin’. Normally I roll the windows up shortly after and turn on some of my guilty pleasure jams. Mommies can only listen to Tupac when their babies are not yet in the car!

Anyway, this afternoon I was feeling particularly mellow so I let the windows stay down. As I drove over the Dames Point, my nose found an ever so faint yet familiar smell. It was the aroma from the Maxwell House Plant blowing across the river. I breathed it in deeply just before it left me and a million memories washed over me. I recalled internships in which I drove next to the Plant everyday for months. I thought of MLK parades, volunteer work at countless downtown organizations, all things prefaced by that smell. It made me smile. Where did the time go? I need that smell to get me motivated. Maybe I should take the I-95 way to work. I would never miss it again.

But I-95 also made me think of a different smell. If you’re from Jacksonville, you remember the paper mills well. Don’t quote me on this but I am assuming the smell along I-95 through downtown had a little something to do with the paper mills. I always associated that smell to “oh no, is it time to leave Grandma’s house again?” As a young child, before my dad shipped the family off to St. Louis, I would stay every weekend with my grandmother. On Sunday nights, my mom would spend at least an hour trying to get me into the car to go home. Results were always the same. I would cry so much that I would almost make myself throw up. At the precise moment that I would settle down and be reduced to minor sniffling, we would pass through downtown. And the smell started in and then my stomach turned again and I thought I really would vomit! Yes, I was a sucker for my granny. But that smell is for the most part gone now. Occasionally I can smell a little somethin’ somethin’ along that route but I’m not sure what that is (if you know, please comment).

Moving on…

I had just one more olfactory reflection during my drive home – the brewery. One of the neighborhoods I lived in as a child, and ironically now as an adult, was right down the street from the Anheuser-Busch brewery. It was the place where I came to hate roasted peanuts with every inch of my being. But as I got older and the military forced our family out of Jacksonville, the brewery was how I knew I was home. After a long road trip, it did everything just short of holding a sign out that read “You’ve finally made it back!”

I let the wind blow through my hair and I turned my music up just a little louder. Funny how the most seemingly insignificant things can take us back to another place in time. Then when I felt my arm getting sunburned, I remembered that I am still in Jacksonville. And I said to myself, “Girl, it’s June and it’s 97 degrees!” So I turned on the air and rolled those windows up with the quickness. Enough reminiscing for one day. After all I was almost at the daycare to pick up Quincy and the best part of every day is the smell of his sweet skin when he hugs me and says “Hi, mama”.

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