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Scents and memories.

I was reminded yesterday of the unique link between our olfactory sense and memories. The smell that made me think of this is a relatively recent one;  Green Curry from our local Thai Village restaurant. I’ll explain about that one in a minute, but here are some others first.

  • A damp evening at Fraser Lake Camp, Bancroft.
  • That damp earth smell, just before it rains. I can’t get enough of this good smell, perhaps because it’s so fleeting. It reminds me of being a kid and realizing, for the first time, that there was a link between this smell and the weather.
  • Spearmint brings memories of my Grandad Diller and his green Chiclets.
  • Licorice never fails to remind me of Grandad Baker, who always gave us Licorice Allsorts as a treat.
  • Roasting turkey.Although this scent brings a rush of holiday memories, it usually transports me to one particular Christmas. Five year old me is standing at the door of Granny’s kitchen, watching my mother and aunts laughing and carrying on as they carve the turkey, make the gravy, and try to get everything on the table while it’s all still hot.
  • Lilacs remind me of warm Friday evenings in the spring, just as the dew is falling. In this memory I kneel beside five gallon pails filled with masses of lilacs ranging from white, to lavender, to deep purple and burgundy, and I bury my face in their cool softness. They’ll be sold at the St. Lawrence Market the following day. Lily-of-the-Valley too.
  • Peonies. Ditto — only a little later in the season.
  • Dettol or Pine Sol. I hate this smell. It reminds me of the KYBOs at camp and the little buckets of Dettol and water that you were supposed to wash your hands in after you were finished. (A KYBO is an outhouse — Keep Your Bowels Open — and is pronounces kigh-bow, as in bow for your hair, not bow/curtsey.)
  • Fresh laundry off the line. Because we didn’t have a dryer, our laundry was hung outside year-round. In the winter, the clothes would freeze on the line. When Mom brought them in they’d finish drying on racks, filling the warm house with their fresh outdoor scent.
  • Thai Green Curry. As I mentioned, this smell has a more recent memory. Over the few months that my daughter has been living with us, Green Curry (and other Thai goodies) have been our standard Friday evening treat. For reasons too complex to explain, Fridays can be particularly difficult in the health care facility where we both work.

When we find that the week is over and we’re both still alive, we go straight to Thai, a reward for surviving yet another horrendous and overwhelming Friday. That wonderful coconut/curry scent will always remind me that it’s possible to both  love and hate my job.

I know there are many more scents and memories linked in my subconscious and I wish I could remember them all.

What are some of your favourites?


Phyllis writes words: words for stories, and words for books. Phyllis writes words for blogs too.

7 thoughts on “Scents and memories.

  1. How about the spring violets you picked for the market . And the scent of “market” on
    Granddad’s clothes as he paid you for their sale on Saturday night?

  2. I came across a lotion with an almond scent and immediately I thought of the lotion my mom used when I was less than five years old. I was standing in the little area between our sink, the big glass cupboard and my parent’s bedroom door. Surrounded with an “at home” feeling, it gave me the longing to have one of her hugs again!

  3. The smell of REAL smoked meat takes me back to the days when Dad and Uncle Will ran the butcher shop. I have never been able to find smoked meat as good as theirs.

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