The smell of memory

After turning in the dreaded research paper, I made my way to a mall I never go to, just so I could exchange that gorgeous dress for a different size (don't ask). Thankfully they had it, and thankfully they held it for me.

As I was walking out of the store, I was overcome by a smell that is hard for me to describe. It smelled like bacon, eggs, italian food cooking, the inside of an old oven, tomato plants, my grandfather's aftershave, my grandmother's perfume, fresh-baked bread, soapy dishes in the sink, and a crisp morning newspaper. These are the smells of my grandparents' house in New York. My grandparents who are no longer alive, and haven't been for many years.

I was so overcome that I actually stopped walking and stood in the middle of the mall. I turned around in a circle, frantically looking for a sign that would make sense-maybe someone was carrying one of those things? Maybe an older person walked by? Maybe...?

No one was around me. I sucked in my breath, trying to hold on to the smell, and tears filled my eyes.

I believe that those we love (and those that love us) visit us after they die. My mother says she has felt her mother riding home with her after a visit to the cemetary. Over the years, my grandmother has visited me in my dreams, sometimes looking as she did when I was very young, sometimes looking as she did before she died, and sometimes somewhere in between those two times. She used to visit me regularly, but over the course of the past 3 or 4 years, it is more sporadic, yet just as treasured (if not more).

I have always connected memories to smells. Orange roses remind me of a summer where things were different. The smell of chlorine is full of summer nights that never ended, splashing in the pool with friends. Cold weather & a fireplace burning are full of strong love, and lost love. Some men's colognes propel me back to middle school, while others push me towards times where I sat in my father's lap or held his hand in church. The smell of Red perfume brings me right back to watching my mother get ready for work, and stealing her makeup after she left. The smell of all different foods are attached to so many memories, I can't even begin to explain it.

I called my mother, trying to explain the smell. She immediately 'got' it. She always 'gets' me, and I am so very thankful for that. I have a huge smile on my face, realizing that she is right: my grandparents came to visit me today, for the briefest of moments.


Anonymous said...

Smells, music, deja vu. Lots of ways that memories can come flooding back. Each one is a testament to who you are and the people who made you who you are. Hold onto them! They are special!

Jenn Martinson said...

They were there to remind you that you look hot in that dress!

Kristie said...

I have some pretty strong attachements to certain smells also. I still smell the man that got away from me on occassion. And there's a certain perfume that reminds me of a rainy day in New York city that I got lost and rained on. I treasure those memories, so I totally get it.

just a girl... said...

please tell me that you got my email missy.

Orion said...

Thanks for stopping by...

...and i totally "get" your scent of the past. Sometimes it's a horrible thing, at least in this case it was something you were very fond of. Now imagine your current significant drags you into a candle store and wants to buy a candle... lets say the same candle that you and an ex had lit up the night with.

Yeah, I never really sink into the passionate moments of memory and childhood... instead i get tossed into a deepening black hole of my not so smooth past.

Chibi said...

I haven't experienced a smell associated with a loved one who has passed, but a smell can sure evoke powerful memories for me (much as a song can).

I was given the bed that my great grandparents first bought as a married couple. It's a simple, metal-framed 3/4 bed (halfway between a single and a double, so not very big and HARD to find bedding for!) that is... 75 years old now.

I had confessed to my mom after quite some time that every once in awhile, I would be woken up by what felt like someone shaking my foot through the blankets. It really unsettled me because it seemed so real, yet when I'd flick on my lamp, my room would be empty.

My mom's whole face changed as she told me about visiting my great grandparents when she was a girl. That bed became the spare bed that guests slept in. Great Grannie would sneak into the bedroom, grab Mom's foot through the blankets, and gently shake it to wake her up.

I stayed with them when I was young, but don't recall Great Grannie ever waking me that way. It was strange to think that she would do it all these years later.

Jannie Funster said...

I think they pipe those smells in to make us buy more stuff?

Smell ils our deepest sense, they say.

No but seriously, sweet post, and so glad "the Justagirl Swap" mailing deadline has been extended. Yay - I will pull through for you!

Li'l Foot's Mommy said...

I love when my sense of smell triggers a memory. The one I most frequently have is when I smell someone wearing baby oil. My aunt (who we will be visiting for New Year's in Vermont) wears it every day and I just love the smell of it. There are a couple others that really trigger it, but this one happens most often.