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  • Writer's pictureFern

A Proustian Moment

Whenever I eat coffee yogurt I think of Nancy Guglielmo.

Her desk was situated across the aisle from mine, and I can still see her long hair, middle parted, and falling down to her waist like a shimmering brown cascade. Every once in a while she gave a toss to her head and flipped one side back over her shoulder. Nancy was a one person “Checking Department” in the accounting department of the Ad agency where I had my first job, right out of high school. Her responsibility, in simple terms, was to tear the ads that we had placed for our clients, from the newspapers where they appeared. The newspapers were from states across the nation. Tony from the mailroom, short, squat, and grey haired, delivered a fresh stack to her desk every morning and afternoon. Some days it was hard to see Nancy behind the piles of newspapers. She tore ads from newspapers…all…day…long.

Nancy of the shining brown hair, located the ads, working from client lists of dates and content, then tore them out, zip, zip, with a metal ruler, then filed them by client. If she found errors, with regard to the size of the ad that ran, or the dates, or typos, she handed it over to the manager of our department.

We were never that friendly, though we were around the same age, under twenty. Maybe it was the coffee yogurt? Up to that point, I had never even eaten yogurt, being more prone to bring a sandwich from home, or skip lunch to go shopping around the corner on Fifth Avenue. But there was Nancy, extracting her Dannon coffee yogurt and spoon from her brown paper bag most days.

I probably exaggerate, like someone who says 'we always went to the museum when I was a kid,' though they may have gone only twice. Why weren’t we friends? No special reason. She was different, with a sturdy build and plain clothes, low heels. I tended toward trendy clothes and high heels. That shouldn't have been a reason, but we were young. Of course, I envied her hair, as mine was not long, and never, I repeat never, that smooth.

But how is it that someone I haven’t seen in over forty years comes to mind when I eat coffee yogurt, which I now love? I tried the coffee yogurt once at Nancy’s gentle coaxing….ewww, I actually hated the sour taste.

In his (very long) novel, Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust wrote of a man who took one small bite of a madeleine dipped in tea and was immediately transported on a journey through his memory. While it has become known as a "Proustian moment," that tight bond between taste and memory wasn't a creation of Proust's imagination. There's a proven link between taste buds and memories. May 2019 Southern Living

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