Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Flashback

I believe I've read somewhere that scent is one of our most powerful memory triggers. So this week, a blast (of scent) from the past.

Classic pink Camay soap will forever remind me of the downstairs bathroom in my friend Sue's parents' house. The rest of the house didn't have that smell, just that one room. I love that smell. Our house, on the other hand, is conjoured by aqua Zest. We had very hard water (iron) and Zest was the only soap that didn't film up and stick to your skin. And back then, there was only one Zest, the traditional aqua.

The smell of Pine-sol carries me back to Kiwanis Apps Mill Park, the site of the residential camp where I worked as a counselor in the summer of 1982. We had to mop up messes, a lot of messes it seemed, so the place always smelled like pine-sol. That's where Scott and I met. :o)

This week, hanging up the clothes, the breeze carried another memory. When I was growing up, we had a field of *ahem* wildflowers around the yard. Predominant was Queen Anne's Lace. What a sweet, delicate scent! And always, the smell of late summer.

And not so pleasant - there's a kind of nose wrinkling salty (but not rancid) smell to dried up dead fish. I grew up near Lake Erie in the 1970s. Boy that smell transports me back.

I was ironing batiks one time, and the smell of something in the fabric brought back a scent memory I'd completely forgotten. Before we moved from the little orange house in Campbell's Cross my parents used to have parties. Did they burn incense? Was it patchouli? It was the 60s, it's certainly not out of the question. Whatever it was, the smell of the batik sent me back 35 years, sitting under the buffet table, quietly fascinated at all the people in my house.

Of course Christmas smells like cloves, and Halloween smells like charred pumpkin guts. Fall smells like slightly moldy fallen leaves, spring smells like worms...

I think losing the sense of smell would be more traumatic than many can even begin to imagine.

7 comments:

Rose said...

Funny you should write about the sense of smell...I was just writing a friend and telling her I truly wish I could bottle the smell of wood smoke and wild 'honeysuckle'--although Purdue University will tell you it is not honeysuckle but groundcover. But we know what we are talking about!

Jane Ann said...

Having formerly had a highly sensitive nose, I can promise you it is the pits to lose your sense of smell. I suppose it's age but I wonder if allergies and steroid sprays aren't the cause. It is stunning how a scent can totally transport you. Sadly, not very often for me any more. (Little disturbing too--I worry about fire.)

Rian said...

Looking at that bar of Camay, I can actually smell it. I kid you not. Or maybe it's Sweetheart soap, I could be getting those two confused.

If I smell patchouli I am immediately transported to 1969. Far out, man.

Tanya Brown said...

The brain is a powerful organ. While I was reading your post, I began "smelling" the things you were talking about, at least the ones I'm familiar with.

I'm pretty sure the smell of Camay is going to be stuck in my sinuses for the rest of the day!

Zazzu said...

A friend's mom lost her sense of smell and, along with it, sixty pounds. She could still taste salty, sour and sweet but couldn't taste the subtleties enough to really crave anything in particular. She just ate to live and stopped living to eat.

Maybe not so bad?

katelnorth said...

Actually, it's true that losing your sense of smell/taste (they are closely linked) is a big deal. I have a former work colleague who lost both temporarily with a virus - one came back (smell?) but the other took MONTHS to come back and in the end there were still things which he simply couldn't taste when he ate them. Weird, eh?

Teri said...

Remember Prell Shampoo? It came in an hourglass shape and they would drop a pearl into the top of a bottle so that you could see how 'thick and rich' the shampoo was. It had a very distictive smell. I found some recently on the bottom shelf at the supermarket. Different bottle, but same great smell. The same holds true for Jergen's lotion. I was very happy when they came back with the 'original cherry/almond' scent. It wasn't Jergens without the scent that I remembered from youth.
Another smell memory was the smell of the old gas heater in my grandmother's house. I walked into a place recently that had one of those heaters and it brought back strong memories of my grandmother's house. I don't know if you ever saw these things, they were a small, free standing heater that was hooked up to a gas line. It had maybe 5 or 6 rectangular panels that looked like cutwork. I have always been sensitve to 'smell memories'
And as far as losing taste goes, like with a cold. I think if I couldn't taste, I wouldn't have a weight problem. It is certainly no fun eating if you can't taste the food!