On opening the microwave door today I caught whiff yesterday mornings bacon smell and was mentally propelled into my paternal grandparents home. It was quite nearly like being teleported. Certain brands of coffee brewing will take me there, as will Grandpa’s brand of cigarettes, a smell I find oddly endearing, precisely because it is so closely associated with memories of my Grandfather. Grandma wouldn’t let him smoke inside the house, so he went out to the garage, or the garden when he needed to light up. If we couldn’t find Grandpa in the house, we knew we could find him outdoors simply by following our noses. And the bacon? When our family visited they cooked up a storm for us. Mounded heaps of pancakes, sausage and bacon sat center stage at their table. Grandpa was the cook. Grandma sat at the table sipping her morning coffee overseeing our amazingly decadent feast. We didn’t get bacon at our house. That was a luxury item.
Smell is surely the most evocative of all the memories.
Lilacs used to grow along our backyard fence when I was very young. That heady fragrance carries with it a sense of calm and a feeling that all is right with the world.
My favorite restaurant experience ever was less about the five-star service and phenomenal food and more due to the fact that they used wood fired stoves. I have many, many cherished memories of cooking over a camp fire, so the wood smoke atmosphere lent an ambiance to the meal that could be had not other way.
Old Spice cologne brings out memories of my dad. Falling asleep in church with my head leaning against his shoulder stands out particularly. He also carried in his pocket a small container of mint lifesavers, broken into fourths. That waft of mint in the air will place my thoughts squarely in a church pew, a sermon droning, sleepiness weighing my eyes down.
Fresh cut grass transports me to the park I grew up nearby. When that scent hits the air in my head I’m rolling down hills, catching fly balls and throwing Frisbees.
Books have a certain smell, especially library books. It’s a sort of musty, dusty, inky papery scent that sets me down on the couch next to mom hearing her reading. The melody of her voice drifts across the years and settles in at the very center of me. The world all-akimbo rights itself from that one singular sensation. Who knew the power that could be found in the smell a book carries.
I worked in a print shop for a year once. Never thought I’d get over being blown away by the strong ink smell that permeated every atom in the building. No surprise in that connection of ink and words. For me, the print shop placed me one tiny step closer to my childhood dream of someday being published, having my words set down in ink. And so the smell of printer’s ink is the call and promise of a distant dream, a hope in the air.
A dairy farm is distinctly aromatic. For most people it isn’t a pleasant distinction. I spent a week once, and a few days over the years, in the company of a happy family who owned dairy cows, and with them the required hay fields, farm machinery, and relaxed country drawl. I adored helping out at milking time. It was a mechanized operation that fascinated me. My job was to pull the lever that sent a shower of grain into a feeding trough for the beautiful black and white beasts to munch on as the suction cups emptied their udders. It was an important job! The smell of manure, grain, milk and dust was a heady thing, full of responsibility, pride and usefulness. Those smells to this day conjure such wonder-filled emotions.
I can tell that today will be a day of breathing deeply and searching for memories in those breaths.
Is there a scent or fragrance richly tied to memory for you? Have you ever been surprised by a smell, having been, until that moment, unaware of the power of it’s chemistry?