OnlyMama

A Lingering Scent


What triggers your memories?  For me, it's not a picture, a phrase, or a physical thing-- it's a smell.  Certain scents can take us places in the blink of an eye, whether we want to go there or not.  They can be very vivid memories that are catalogued in the brain more like a 3-D movie than a photograph.   Recently, I put on a sweater and was instantly reminded of a sweltering hot August day at the Washington County fair in Northeast Colorado.  I pictured myself leaving the rodeo stands and heading to the carnival rides.  Whoa!  We're talking thirty-some years ago. Where did that come from?  
Of course, sometimes, certain scents are there on purpose.  I have a hard time walking through a Walgreen's without smelling a scent that reminds me of my mom.  It's not in the air.  I go take in a long whiff on purpose when I'm afraid I'm forgetting too much.  It's comforting to know that her perfume (which I didn't exactly love,) still reminds me of her.
A good friend of mine refuses to wear perfume and claims she would never want a "signature scent."  What she wants her children to remember and recognize is her scent, not Chanel's.  She hopes the smell of clean hair and freshly laundered clothes will be her scented legacy.  I lean toward the simple scents of lavender and citrus.  I certainly wouldn't mind if my daughter thought of me when she peeled an orange, sliced a grapefruit or ran her hand along a stalk of French lavender.  It does sound a lot more pleasing than a sickening-sweet cologne, yet, I've stopped, gotten our of my car and walked into a store just so I could smell that very thing.
Scientists say that smells (olfactory nerve) are only two quick synapses away from emotions (amygdala) in our brain, and only three to our memory (hippocampus).  This is one theory as to why certain smells can trigger such potent memories.  I believe it is one more way God has given us to remember our moms, our grandmas, our uncles.  And, why so many of these scents, whether subtle as a cup of homemade hot cocoa, or as obvious as burning pipe tobacco-- take us all the way back to the days of our childhood. 

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