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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Amazing Sense of Smell

By Rachel H

I picked up my daughter’s Strawberry Shortcake doll the other day and it immediately took me back to my childhood. That strawberry smell (that actually smells nothing like strawberries) is embedded in my brain as a reminder of childhood happiness.

It is amazing how a simple smell can transport you to specific time and place and can quickly give you that warm feeling of comfort. I think it is so important to teach our kids how to literally “stop and smell the roses!” My mom always picked Honeysuckle with us and let us taste it. Even to this day as I am walking past a Honeysuckle bush, it reminds me of my childhood and brings a smile to my face.

The other day I picked up my kids from a birthday party at a gymnasium, and as soon as I opened the door I was taken back to my days as a baton twirler. (Don’t laugh at me for being a baton twirler!) There is a distinct smell to those dance studios and gyms, and I told my kids to stop and smell. Of course they thought I was weirdo and my daughter proclaimed that it was stinky, but they’ll see what I’m talking about one day!

Speaking of baton twirling, I still cannot smell Aqua Net hairspray without thinking of my days in elementary school when we would have baton competitions. I think there was a permanent cloud of Aqua Net stuck in the air in the changing rooms, and I can’t help but laugh when I smell it.

My grandmother lived across the street from her church in Pennsylvania, and we always went with her to light candles in memory of relatives who had passed away. There was a certain smell when we entered that old stone church and every once in a while I smell that same scent here as I enter my own church. It automatically transports me back to a time where I would kneel next to my Nana and watch her light candles in prayer.

In fifth grade I wrote a report on dolls. We were required to make index card notes from our reference books. I think I worked on this for a full month. I used a blue Bic erasable pen to take notes, and doggone it if I don’t think of my report on dolls every time I use one of those!

We go through Chapstick like crazy in this house. My daughter always asks to buy the pink, but it is standard that we have to buy the black. Why? My dad used black Chapstick every day growing up. I can still picture the little spot on our countertop where he kept it, and I love, love, love that smell.

Lever 2000 soap will always be a reminder of 2nd floor Eggers dorm at ASU. My mom had bought me enough soap to last three years when she sent me off to college, and it was Lever 2000. I cannot smell that clean scent without thinking of my freshman year of college as we sang songs while showering on the hall in our dorm and got ready for a night out in Boone!

Remember scratch and sniff stickers? My mom saved my sticker collection from my childhood days. We found it a few months ago and I soon as I opened the book that overwhelming smell of root beer floats and bananas came rushing back to me. I had my kids scratch and sniff every single sticker in that album and they giggled with each one.

Then there are the certain smells that you can’t describe, but they touch your heart immediately. Like the smell when I open my grandmother’s old hutch that now holds all my china. Or the smell of the asphalt when it starts raining on a sunny day. Or the way my kids smell when they come in from playing outside. Or that smell of a baby’s nursery. (minus the diaper pail!) And of course the smell of a campfire or a charcoal grill.

Homemade pasta sauce – my Italian grandmother, oil-popped popcorn – my mom, Red Door perfume – my BFF Kathleen, stale beer – games of beerpong in my husband’s apartment in college, Banana Boat after-sun lotion – highschool spring break, freshly cut grass – my dad’s impeccable lawn we had while growing up, birch beer – my Poppop Hess, dark stone alleyways – my grandmother’s basement, Abercrombie & Fitch Cologne – the years of dating my husband, any Aveda products – my sister … my list goes on and on.

The holidays are coming up, and now more than ever I am going to remind my children to smell all those glorious holiday smells and delight in the comfort they each bring. I would love to hear what memories our readers have from your amazing sense of smell.


Victoria said...

Oh, I love this! Mine is the smell of moth balls, crazy I know, but it always reminds me of my favroite Great Aunt. We played ta her house all the time growing up and the smell of moth balls reminds me of her closets where we would hide in our games of hide & seek.

Meredith F. said...

As an art teacher, I think it is wonderful to teach our children to always use all of their senses in as many situations as possible. It really brings out the creative side. I like these examples you stated and think it is a fabulous idea to share them with your children.

Katie M said...

Great post, Rachel! Three things that bring me back to childhood (I smelled all these on my run today which made me think of them):
1. Fresh cut grass - particularly in the morning - reminds me of field hockey camp.
2. Exhaust from city buses - reminds me of boarding the bus in the wee hours of the morning for snow ski club in middle school.
4. Cigar smoke - as offensive as it is, I like it b/c it reminds me of my dad and grandfather!

Catherine said...

Aqua Velvet - (is that the name of it?) my dad used that aftershave all the time when we were young. Good memories!

Kristie said...

I know I have at least a dozen favorite scents that bring me back in time. I can think of a few right now that always bring vivid images of the past. I'm willing to bet a lot of you will agree with me on this one: Mr.Sketch scented markers...ooooh...they smell so good. Blueberry was always my favorite and I love cherry and orange too! Whenever I come across these markers doing activities with the kids or elsewhere I can't help but smell every one of them!

Bath & Body Works "Juniper Breeze" lotion immediately takes me back to my honeymoon in Turks & Caicos. I just remember putting it on after being out in the sun all day and the scent reminds me of the fun we had as well as the beach and warm weather.

Another one is the smell of oil reminds me of when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and I took an oil painting class with adults. Painting and doing artwork was a huge part of my childhood and younger years. Ahhh...the freedom!

Kari Foster Allison said...

Rachel, I am shocked at how many of the same smell memories we have! Is that weird?
I also really love the smell of boxwoods. They remind me of all my years of walking to work in downtown Wilmington, wondering about the stories and history in all of those old houses.

Rachel H said...

Very weird, Kari! You must share which ones! Does Abercrombie & Fitch cologne remind you of my husband, too? Kidding, kidding!!!

Kari Foster Allison said...

Rachel, to Abercrombie and Fitch cologne here! :-)
but here's what I do have:
-Strawberry Shortcake doll,
-honeysuckle that we picked and pulled the stem to taste,
-being a baton twirler (I only remember the rubber smell of the caps)
-Aqua Net in gym class,
-Bic erasable pens (they were my favorite b/c I was a perfectionist and didn't know about white out then!)
-Black chapstick, so good- so waxy!
-Lever 2000 soap in college (UNCW though)
-my scratch and sniff stickers in my collection that my mom still has!
The smell of hot pavement reminds me of The Pavilion at Myrtle Beach-does that still exist?
The other thing I remembered that I doubt we have in common is a Winnie the Pooh scratch and sniff book my Mom still has. It has many scents including honey, and honeysuckle. The crazy thing is that even though that book is 30+ years still smells the same! And when I read it to my girls, I am totally transported back to my Mom reading it and asking me, "what does that one smell like to you?" And we would both get so excited that I guessed it and I was amazed that a book could be so magical!

Rachel H said...

OH my gosh - we really do have so many in common! And I am happy to know I was not the only baton twirler! I get made fun of for that all the time!

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