I Can Still Hear Niagara Falls
Memories stirred by the senses
Memories and our senses are powerfully connected, accompanying events mundane and meaningful. Boomer reader Sherrill Pool Elizondo recalls some memories – with their sights, sounds, smells, and feelings – including the long-distance sound of Niagara Falls.
Of the five senses, I would be most terrified of losing good eye sight. To be able to see family, friends, the beauty and wonder of nature, read a good book, drive a car, or look at family photo albums are just a few of the blessings that come to mind when I think of good eyesight. When it comes to personal possessions, it’s no surprise to me that people first think of taking family photographs if forced to flee their homes during a disaster. Sadly, sometimes all that is left is only in the mind’s eye … that wonderful place of imagination or recollection.
There are times I miss certain places. I can visualize, hear, smell, and almost taste these places. It’s as though I am longing for a place that I need to return to for a brief moment. Usually it is my hometown or another locale that holds good memories. There have been occasions, while traveling, that I have experienced a familiarity that equates with feelings of home. Some have suggested this feeling is similar to déjà vu, but perhaps it is rather a case of feeling comfortable with one’s senses in a particular place and time.
This happened when I traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, as a young woman. I felt at home, as though I had been there before, which was not the case. Wendell Berry has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t know where you are, than you don’t know who you are.” Was he referring to the concept of sense of place?
I also felt a deep spiritual connection to Muir Woods … as if I was standing in a place that was there at the beginning of time. The surroundings were that primeval and serene.
There’s an old Beatles song that, for me, poetically gives meaning to the places that we remember. The first few lines are from the song “In My Life”:
There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever not for better.
Some have gone and some remain…
In the spring I think of my hometown and experience memories of certain scents … not just visual memories … like patches of sweet-scented clover that popped up every spring near the house where I grew up, the fresh smell of recently mowed grass at the track near my high school, and aromas coming from Mexican restaurants along the San Antonio River. Memories are not just about what someone has seen with the eyes but, more often than not, involve other senses.
Too bad it’s not possible to time-travel to re-experience our memories. When not real life traveling, I’ve vicariously experienced places by way of trips made by family members and friends. Something has stayed with me for a very long time, though, and all it took was receiving a telephone call from a son.
My oldest son traveled in and out of the U.S. during his college years with his two younger brothers and some friends. He visited friends where he could stay in their home while sightseeing or visited places where he could find affordable accommodations or camp out. On one trip with his brothers, they traveled to Europe, which included the Basque region of Spain where some of their ancestors had lived. They visited the town of Elizondo (our last name) which was meaningful and were welcomed and made to feel at home by the locals. Many asked if they were Basque rather than American. There was one adventure my oldest son had, though, that was chronicled in phone calls and postcards only to me.
One summer he was working on a construction job with a friend whose father owned a company on the East Coast. He relayed funny anecdotes about life in New York and New Jersey, day-to-day contact with construction crews, and laughed when he talked about driving with his friend around the Big Apple in an old beat-up pickup truck bearing Texas license plates. Sometimes he would sit in Central Park alone, in awe of the natural beauty that surrounded him, not too far from what he called in his postcards the proverbial “concrete jungle.”
During his time away from Texas, he called me one day. I was having difficulty hearing exactly what he was saying because his words were drowned out by the sound of rushing water. It was a much more powerful noise than the sound of a bathroom shower, which was my first thought, and different than the sound of torrential rain. When he finally said, “Hey, Mom, I’m calling from Niagara Falls on the Canadian side,” it was then that I understood. This mighty roar made me feel like I was right there or standing directly beneath the falls. I was thrilled to hear his excited voice sharing his experience.
That afternoon so many years ago, I knew that I might not ever see Niagara Falls, but I sure had heard it! That’s enough for me because, in 2011, I was able to stand alone under Bridal Veil Falls in Yosemite with my son’s firstborn. That was something that I experienced with all of my senses and something I will not soon forget: a shared moment in time with a grandson. There are places I have remembered all my life …
Sherrill Pool Elizondo graduated from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) with a degree in English and education. She’s a sixth-generation Texan and interested in genealogy. She’s been an aspiring writer for over 40 years and is the proud parent of three sons and has six talented and remarkable grandchildren. Her stories were seen online at Boomer Cafe before website was closed. This one appeared in 2019. She has other stories which can be found online at Bullock Texas History Museum, 70 Candles, Grand Magazine, Texas Escapes, Bridge of the gods Magazine in Oregon, and Boomer Magazine.
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