May 04th, 2017
Scientists say that scent is one of the strongest memory triggers, that somewhere deep in the back of the olfactory section of the brain is a closet with a zillion or so drawers. And in each one of those drawers is a fragrance and tucked beside it, in the same drawer, is the memory that we associate with it. I do believe it to be true.
One of my earliest memories can be triggered by the scent of home made pickles. Upcap a jar of a certain type of those pickles and once again I am about two or three years old, in very old apartment building in Chicago sitting at the kitchen table beside a sweet, grandmotherly lady with a heavy German accent who, I'm told, was called Grandma Theresa. She wasn't my real grandmother, but a neighbor of my parents who occasionally watched over me. I am also told that she had a dish of those pickles, which she made, on her kitchen table all of the time.
We all have favourite fragrances. Baking bread is one of mine. Cinnamon and vanilla rank pretty high too. Those are just feel-good scents. When I detect any of those three scents wafting through the air, I know that all is well with the world. I also love the smell of sheets that have been dried outside in the sun. It's rare to detect that one anymore, but if I close my eyes and think about it, yup, there it is. Baby powder is another one. And furniture that has been freshly polished. And tomatoes ripening on the vine. Anything citrus just freshens a room - real citrus, not the stuff in a can. The scent of coffee brewing just smells like a good morning and the air filled with the funk of fireworks has the scent of excitement. The cozy fragrance of a wood-burning fire brings me to a New England autumn with that biting scent of cold air and old leaves, pumpkins and apples.
And then there are the florals. I love almost all of them but among my favourites are lilac, lavender and honeysuckle. Honeysuckle in particular is a specific memory. The first house that we lived in way back in California (which would be first grade for me, I believe) had massive piles of honeysuckle growing riotously and unchecked across the back fence. It was glorious! I woke every morning with that scent in my nose. I do not have a single recollection of what the house looked like but I will never forget that fragrance tiptoeing through the open window of my bedroom early in the dewy mornings.
So imagine my delight to learn that there is a veritable waterfall of honeysuckle on the fence beside our house! Unfortunately, the only windows on that side of the house are the guest room and the guest bathroom. That's okay. Now that I know what's growing there, in the spring I can scent those two rooms with honeysuckle and there will be some open windows, at least in the early morning every day. Those two rooms smells positively glorious right now!
The side door to the utility room is also on that side of the house. The only time, really, that I use that door is to take something out to the garbage cans because that is where they are parked. But, right now, taking out the garbage is my favourite chore. I open that squeaky side door, garbage bag in hand, step out onto the concrete pad and breathe deeply. I don't smell garbage cans, or sweat, or palm tree pollen, or even the ocean right now. All my nose detects is the deep, heavy floral of honeysuckle and I'm seven years old, waking up in my little twin bed in the room I share with my sister in California once again.
It's like a time machine! And it's awesome.
Breathe deeply, my friends, and let those scents take you back to something you thought you forgot. It's a free ride.
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Yup, this is me. Some people said, "Sam, you should write a Blog". "Well, there's a thought", I thought to myself. And so here it is.