Memories Of An Olfactory Nature

by Stefani on 11-March-2008

Do you have certain smells that take you back?

The smell of grease and gasoline make me think that my Popo might have just left the room.

When I wash the dishes with Palmolive, I can see my Momo’s hands in the dishwater.

I love those moments, because even though my Momo and Popo are long gone, their smells linger like an embrace.

There are other smells too though…

If I happen in a building that uses Simple Green cleaner, I’m 16 again, and cleaning out dog kennels at my first job. (okay second, if you count the brief stint as a grocery store bagger).

The scent of permanent markers brings to mind that odd, broody girl that sat next to me in biology class. She would scribble with one, fiendishly on her bookcover then lay her head on her desk and huff the class away. Good lord. Every time I smell a Sharpie, I wonder where she is now.

I wonder then, what scents my boys and I are trading.

In the years to come, I wonder if it is their shampoo that will bring to mind their towel wrapped, wiggling wet bodies. Or will it be waffles cooking that makes me recall the crashing, slamming, giggling mess that is breakfast with three boys? Or goodness, it might be that entering a public bathroom will remind me of the days when, no matter how often I sprayed the place down with bleach, I could never remove the yellow smell that lingers in the loo where three men do what they do.

Then, what scents will make them think of me? Will it be the whiff of my perfume, that reaches them as they pass by some woman on a busy street? Will it be the fabric softener on their pillows that makes them think of Mama tucking them in at night?

Or maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky, it will be lavender.

After all, it is lavender on the hands that wipe their tears, brush their hair, button their shirts and pinch their squishy little cheeks.

Lavender Soap

Lavender in the garden where we dig and play. My boys like to break off the leaves and rub themselves all over. Then, they walk around sniffing themselves. (I try not to think about that girl in biology class when they do this.)

Lavender In the Garden

It is lavender, trailing behind the sweet wind that ruffles through the curtains and runs through the house saying, “Spring is here! Spring is here!”.


If I could weave memories for them, I would fold them and tuck them away with lavender sachets, for a day far from now when they need a little mama embrace.

Lavender Sachet

p.s. If you have been kind enough to leave me a sweet comment or question, please know that I will get back to you one of these days, but at the moment, I’m still without a functioning keyboard. I get stolen minutes here and there on my husband’s, for posting, but not much more than that. I also haven’t been able to comment on YOUR blogs or Flickr photos, but have been looking on silently. Consider me your silent fan 🙂

Ellie March 11, 2008 at 7:06 am

This is, as usual, a beautiful post. Arhhh, yes, lavendar – that would be beautiful to be remembered by. Isn’t it strange how we all have our own scents, we can’t tell what they are, but our loved ones know it.
My memory of my Mum will always be of warm breastmilk or maybe skin (quite unfortunate that I don’t get to smell that so often, but the memory of the smell is enough some days).

Maureen March 11, 2008 at 8:03 am

Great post… I will always associate the aroma of lilac with my parent’s house. They had loads of them, and now I have my own trees from their cuttings in my yard.

Amy March 11, 2008 at 9:06 am

I love, love, love this post. Thank you.

erin March 11, 2008 at 9:11 am

i wonder what my girls will remember too. there is a certain smell that takes me right back to my grandparents’ farm (no, not manure!). i can never put my finger on what it is – most likely a combination of things – but when i get a whiff, i am right there.

Tracy March 11, 2008 at 9:58 am

I love lavender, so much. For me, the big one is flowering jasmine. Directly from the bush. For so long it made me think of California, and I couldn’t understand why. And it was a smell that I didn’t always know what it was, it would just come to me, rarely, since it doesn’t grow in Wisconsin, and BAM. I would be a little toehead girl in California.

Finally, a few years ago, I figured it out. It’s my grandmother’s house. It grows in fragrant, lush hordes outside her window.

I liked the not knowing, it was like strange deja vue. But I love knowing. It will forever be my Grammy.

Keri March 11, 2008 at 10:01 am

Oh yes, the “yellow” smell. That’s why I make my son clean the bathrooms in our house. Because it’s not ME who makes the place smell like that! lol

Also, my mom has worn Obsession since it came out back in the early 80’s. So I can’t smell that without thinking of her. She’s already imprinted that on my son too. A lady at the mall was wearing it yesterday and he said “that lady smells like Bamaw”. So funny!!! And sweet too.

Stacy March 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

This is a great post! Well-constructed, loving, tender, and funny, too.

It brings up lots of my own memories… juniper bushes will forever remind me of California/my grandparents’ house. We came from Alaska to visit every year.

For a long while my son called lavender “lavendary” which I thought was a wonderfully intuitive melding of rosemary and lavender.

And oh, that yellow smell! I’m the only girl round these parts 🙂


Maria March 11, 2008 at 10:57 am

What an awesome post. Around here, it’s lavender too…and patchouli insense…but I really hope it’s the sea air, salt, sun and sand that brings my daughter back in time….thanks for the great memories you brought up in my mind!

Ericka B Traven March 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

For me it is the mucky lake where we spent so many summer vacations. All those long summer days spent in the sand and water.

Mandi March 11, 2008 at 2:44 pm

What a sweet post! I am trying to think what my kids would remember, I unfortunately asked they said I smell like carrots(Burt’s Bees carrot cream)I just got Roxaboxen for my kids. Love it! Thanks for the recommendation.

Julie @ Letter9 March 11, 2008 at 3:34 pm

No keyboard! That’s like having your jaw wired shut. I say that means you get to treat yourself to a lot of milkshakes. : )

Autum March 12, 2008 at 4:13 am

Oh the emotions you stir with your writing…beautiful as always! One that comes to mind for me, the smell of buttermilk, it always brings back visions of my great grandma making biscuits.

molly March 12, 2008 at 10:31 am

I am big on olfactory memories – but the first that comes to mind is the smell of metallic pens. When I was in the first grade a boy at my table brought one and I begged for a turn to use it, but I forgot to put the lid on when I shook it and silver and purple metallic paint flew everywhere. My purple winter jacket was stained that day. I can’t wait to discover what olfactory memories my children form from our days together.

Tipper March 12, 2008 at 10:46 am

Memories of my Papaw charge back at me everytime I smell sawdust. He wore overalls and smelled of sawdust everday of the week but Sunday. He was a pulp wood cutter.

Love the post!

Crystal March 13, 2008 at 2:09 pm

Great post! I know excactly what you are talking about. I asked my husband if he ever smelled a certain smell and immediatley went back in time but he just looked at he like I was mental. But I am not! I will show him HE is the weird one. See. Look at this post. She does it too. 🙂

Alfalfa takes me back to the farm I grew up on.
Channell #5 is my Mom getting ready to go out.
Bread rising is my Gramma.
Fresh air is my kids- LOVE that.

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