The Scent of Memories


I find it amazing how much our senses play a role in memories, especially our sense of smell. A certain person could be the furthest thing from your mind until you catch a whiff of something and suddenly you are transported back in time.

One of my Facebook friends posted something about this the other day. Immediately I started thinking about friends and family members I have lost and various scents I associate with them.

The smells of banana pudding, homemade apple butter, and fresh-baked rolls take me straight the table in my mamaw’s kitchen. Mamaw let me eat as much banana pudding as I wanted. She spent countless hours puttering around that little room. There are also a couple of perfumes that instantly bring her to mind. I miss her warmth.

Homemade play-dough always brings me to my other grandmother’s kitchen table. She frequently made it for me when I spent time with her. I only had a small handful of kitchen gadgets to use for modeling the dough, but I didn’t need any fancy store-bought kit. I could spend hours with her by my side. Root beer, persimmon pudding, cherry pie, spice drops and Doublemint gum all stir memories up inside of me. Gramma knew how to have a good time.

Remembering my dad is a totally different story. Freshly mown grass never fails to make me think of him. The distinct smell of athletic tape, a smell I can strangely conjure up as I type reminds me of the countless hours he spent in the training room at the high school where he worked. I hung out in there every day after school with him as a freshman and sophomore until I could drive. In fact, the smell of any sweaty gym or locker room will now bring tears to my eyes, and not because of the stink. As athletic trainer he spent a lot of time in those places. I remember as a kid going to the empty locker room with him on the weekends sometimes to take care of the team laundry and I felt like I was getting away with something. My dad was the picture of hard work and dedication.

When I was really little we had a neighbor named Joe that was like a third grandfather to me. I always associate the smell of coffee with him. He gave me my first cup, more cream and sugar than coffee. I can’t drink it black to this day. He also smoked, and whatever brand it was had a unique smell. I’ll smell that certain brand now and then when I’m out and about and I smile when Joe’s face pops into my brain even though I normally think the smell of a cigarette is nasty. Joe was tremendously gentle, loving and kind to me.

Do you ever wonder how people will remember you? What scent will cause that ache or longing inside of them when you are gone? As you can see it doesn’t matter if the scent itself is good or bad. The true gift is the quality of the person associated with it and their love, care, devotion, time and energy they invested in you and others. Things that brought them joy will bring you joy, too.

“Memories, imagination, old sentiments, and associations are more readily reached through the sense of smell than through any other channel.” –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Take a walk down memory lane with me today. What is a scent you associate with someone you love? I’d love to hear!

Photo from Stock Exchange

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