They say that smells and scents are tied up with memories in a way that the other senses can’t quite match, probably because the olfactory sense is a part of the limbic system. Apparently, when we’re young we tie a smell to a memory of a place, a person, an event, and then when we smell it again we’re transported back to the original memory.
I can say without a doubt that this is very true for me. The smell of a burning brush fire or house fire has, in the past, given me panic attacks. There’s an essential oil I found one time that is linked in my mind, inexplicably, to my summer camp. Holidays have their own appropriate scents: dead leaves at Halloween, cranberries at Thanksgiving, and evergreen trees at Christmas. A few days ago I was walking home from work and smelled clove cigarettes: either the smoke from someone smoking one in the building I was passing by, or someone on the street who had smoked one earlier. I wasn’t quite sure where it came from, but it brought me right back to my freshman year of high school, when my best friend at the time and the other people she hung out with smoked cloves and I hoped fervently that some adult wouldn’t happen by to string me up by my toenails for even being nearby when that obviously Bad Behavior was going on. And don’t even get me started on the smell of pot smoke, because I will do everything I can to get away from that.
This morning, though.
This morning, I was walking to work, and someone was walking behind me. Eventually he overtook me, passed me, and as he made his way to my left I happened to inhale. He smelled just like The Chef, the guy I dated (briefly) after College Boyfriend and I broke up and before I met Dan. I don’t know what it was. The Chef usually smelled like a kitchen (after all, he WAS a chef), but after a shift he’d shower and when we’d go out he smelled like something. A shampoo? a lotion? Knowing him, it was probably some sort of Masculine Cologne or aftershave or some crap like that. I never knew what it was and I never asked him. I haven’t smelled anyone else with that same smell in the many years since I last saw The Chef (at an awkward baseball game, about which Dan always teases me because I LEFT EARLY, oh, the horror, but I have tried to make it clear to him that I HAD TO GET AWAY.) I hadn’t even thought about the chef in, oh, years maybe, other than to remark on the 3 good things and one Life Lesson I learned while involved with him (1. How to make my own salad dressing from scratch, 2. How to toss a skillet without needing to use a spatula or other implement, 3. How to play scrabble competitively, and Don’t Date People Who Used To Have A Drug Problem And Are Also Kind of Intellectually Stunted, respectively) at various times.
One of the things I like about Dan is that he has his own smell. He doesn’t cover it up with cologne or aftershave. I like the smell of his shampoo, body wash, and deoderant, plus the smell that is just Dan. When I have to travel for work, I often bring a t-shirt of his with me, one that he’s worn for a day and that I can use to sleep in. It helps me sleep, having that smell with me, even though I’m alone in the room by myself. I guess I’m just weird that way.
Are there any smells for which you have strong memories, internet?