The Power of a Scent

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Touch is considered one of the most intimate of senses. We use words like caress,  graze, and stroke, as a way to describe the beautiful act of touch when it is taking place. I believe that the sense of smell is often overlooked. It is not as intimate as touch, but in another sense, it can be.

I was driving home after a long day of school and work. Night had fallen and the city was lit up like the starry sky. I had my windows down circulating the dry air as the city lights darted past me in a haze. A familiar scent wafted my way. Was it laundry detergent? Was it fabric softener? I couldn’t exactly pinpoint what my nose was perceiving, but it brought back nostalgia. It was just when I moved into my new apartment. It was my first time buying laundry supplies. I picked the one that was the cheapest and had the best fragrance. When I did my laundry it usually made the house smell like fresh linens. To me, it was a new beginning. A start to a new week.

Another smell made its way through my open windows. It smelled of fresh toast. It reminded me of all the times I would spend at my great grandmother’s house. Every morning my mother would drop me off so she could go to work. We’d do our goodbye ritual. I would kiss her on the lips, on each cheek, an Eskimo kiss and a butterfly kiss. When we did this I knew that this was only a goodbye for a little while and that we must part ways. My great grandmother always started making breakfast when I arrived. She’d make scrambled eggs, sausage, and toast. She always made my eggs first because she knew that I had to have mine fresh off of the pan. The smell of breakfast was intoxicating. The fresh toast, the ground coffee and the sizzling of the sausage. I would usually watch my morning cartoons as she prepared for the day.

Why do certain scents illicit such vivid memories? Something as simple as a smell will instantly take you back to an exact instant in time.

I can recall one instance where the small of soap instantly reminded me of my preschool days. All these memories came flooding back as if they happened yesterday. I could remember the red mat and koala blanket that I would sleep on for nap, I could remember the long walks we’d take as our teacher would tell us stories about dinosaurs and I could remember watching movies like Lion King and Bug’s Life on the TV and shouting “it’s over, it’s over!” when the credits rolled. How did I recall so much from one scent?

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About meetmeinnevada

A Kansas girl trying to navigate the changes of the big city of Las Vegas, Nevada by talking about life, thoughts, and relationships.
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14 Responses to The Power of a Scent

  1. Actually the reason that scent is so closely tied to memories is that the area in your brain that analyzes scent is closely connected to the area of your brain that stores memories. It’s fascinating isn’t it? For me, I met this assistant teacher once who always had this wonderful perfume on. When I think of her, I think of the perfume first. And then I smile.

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  2. Scent is the strongest trigger for memories. We used it more in our evolution than sight. We had to know food by smell. If something had spoiled or gone bad and it was a way to identify edible plants. It’s the sense that for me, is actually the most sensual. I’ll give you an example. I only wear cologne when I’m on a date with someone. And I don’t put much. It’s not like the guys in high school locker rooms would walk through a cloud of Axe. A spritz on my wrist. Touch wrists together, then touch wrists to neck. That’s it. If you were a regular passerby, you never would have noticed. Now imagine though I am close to you, close enough that you can feel my breath on your neck. At the same time you can smell the cologne on mine. Or perhaps I stroke your cheek. You smell the cologne on my wrist. Intimacy, scent. I spray my handkerchiefs as well in case I ever have to hand one to a beautiful woman in need. Hahah.
    And let’s not forget the sense of smell when it comes to food! Let me tell you, you want to get to someone’s heart, it’s through the nose. You leave a mark.

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  3. The smell of old photographs reminds me of my grandad which always brings tears of sadness and happiness. I often think scent can be quite contradictory as it evokes such a wide variety of emotions.

    Like

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