The grassy slope at Penang Botanic Gardens where I used to scamper around as a kid.
The raw smell of grass – not freshly mowed but one that rises up from the trampling of small feet running all over – always reminds me of the Penang Botanic Gardens. I was five or six then. Dad drove all the way in and parked opposite the Cactus House. On the left was a field that gently sloped upwards from the road. An indentation was dug out from the edge of the slope to make it level with the road. A couple of garden benches occupied that space with their backs facing the steep grass wall that rose up to the field behind them.
I loved scampering all over the slope, chasing after or being chased by imaginary friends. Running up needed some effort but running down was the tricky one. I had to pace my little self else I ran too fast and could not stop when I reached the indent and tumbled over. Dad and Mum sat on the grass and watched me from a distance as I slowly wore myself out from all that activity. Sometimes, if we remembered to bring a beach ball, I would be chasing after it as it rolled down the grassy slope.
When I was totally drenched in sweat and breathless from all that running, Mum called out for me to stop. She was mindful to bring an extra pair of tee shirt and a bottle of water and left them in the car. She made me change out of the soggy shirt that stuck limply to my body. Then she made me drink from the glass cordial bottle that she filled with plain water. I sat with them afterwards, still catching my breath and picking out the pesky love grass seeds that had hooked onto my socks.
The sun was already obscured behind the tall trees. Branches swayed under the evening breeze. My nostrils were filled with the green smell of grass. I blew my nose but it still clung fast. Daylight was fading. It was time to leave. Mum ushered me into the car. The moment the car engine sprung to life, the overpowering smell of petrol choked my olfactory senses, killing all traces of grassiness in my nose but not the memory of the few hours of fun I had there that evening.