I’ve read that our sense of smell is one of our strongest memory triggers. It’s sure true for me. Revlon Aquamarine lotion = my mother. Grapes on the vine = home, where we had a grape arbor running along the back of the house. Fresh mulch = gardens, spring, fall, everything good. Certain perfumes = certain people, for better or worse.

My family has even dubbed a certain scent “babydolls,” and we all know exactly what that is. I can sit here and remember the smell of my dad’s old records. I can think open that door of the buffet where they’re kept and breathe it in. I love that smell.

Think about what scents are triggers for you. Is it a certain flower, a season, a place? Some smells I can’t even define, yet they take me back. A certain fuel oil smell reminds me of being on the ship at Semester at Sea. Some disinfectant smells like grade school. Incense and church — Catholics know that one. And of course there’s “l’air du PAT bus,” a smelly remnant of all those years of commuting.

Imagine the power in all this. If you could assign a scent to something you wanted or needed to remember. “Why, the future value in 20 years of $1500 invested today at 6%? That’s as easy as cherry pie — $4965.” Or, “It’s the darnedest thing. I think of the smell of cinnamon and I can remember everyone’s birthdays.”

If only it worked that way.

Of course, you have to take the bad with the good. Not all smells trigger pleasant memories. But fortunately for me, nearly all of them are.

Simon & Garfunkel gave us the sounds of silence. I present the scent of memories. Breathe it in.

God gave us memories that we
might have roses in December. 
                                      ~ J. M. Barrie


  1. Mel L said,

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 11:57 am

    this was a great post–made me think of all those special scents stored in my brain, and helped me recall some “family-only” scents, too. (I think I can imagine the babydolls scent you talked about!) this is why we can’t bring ourselves to wash things that belonged to loved ones now lost… I have a few of my grandma’s scarves, and I know I will go as long as possible before losing the precious Ma-Ma scent that’s so lovingly contained in those flimsy pieces of cloth.

    I enjoy reading your blog–it’s very lovely to look at, too! : )

  2. christinehollinger said,

    Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    Thanks, Mel. Your blog was the push I needed to actually DO what I’d been long thinking about, so I’m very grateful!

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