Do you smell that?



I recently read a thought-provoking article about smells that are slowly disappearing.

Smells have always interested me more than they should. I have an oversensitive nose, but mainly I think it’s because I’m a documenter by nature and there’s no way to truly preserve a smell.

I have zillions of photos, quotes, books, journal entries, Post-It notes… I’ve got it all.

But I will never, ever have a single bottle of what my grandmother’s house smelled like, or a cologne that matches what the top of my son’s head smelled like for the first six months of his life. (Did you know baby-head has a certain smell?  It really does, I’m not making that up.) And yeah, you can go buy a bar of your mother’s old soap — but it won’t smell like her, just the soap.

Scientists have proven that our olfactory sense is the most direct route to memory.

And I can’t save any of it.

That eats at me sometimes. I would love to be the person who invented a hard drive for smell capture.

In the meantime, though, what I can do is write about those smells. Those words, I can save. It’s as close as I can get.

So here’s a writing prompt:

Tell me ten smells that have mattered to you.


Here are some of mine:

~ mixed-up Halloween candy that’s been in the same plastic bowl for two weeks,

~ my husband’s pillow after he’s left for work in the morning,

~ the green-paneled bedroom I had when I was ten (with cheapo fruit-scented Avon perfume, mini-marshmallows, Strawberry Shortcake everything, a bucket of broken crayons, the lilac bush outside my window, the comforter my old dog always slept on, and other assorted things),

~ a 1980s, well-Aquanetted girls’ locker room (I didn’t say it had to be a good smell, did I?),

~ my old car when the windows were down in a light rain

~ Pine Brothers soft honey cough drops (they’ve remade these, but they are completely different and horrible.)

How about you?


(Image credit.)

3 Responses to “Do you smell that?”

  1. Jenny says:

    – the lilac bushes behind our old swingset
    – whatever was in those little yellow and black clairol things from when mom dyed her hair
    – our old bathtub toys….mold? maybe
    – the smell of the kilgore’s house when i babysat for them – someone turned in some books the other day at my library that smelled just like it!
    – a cat after its been outside
    – strawberry stuff reminds me of my medicine i had to take for ear infections.
    – mulberry reminds me of illinois…maybe we had a candle or something?

    • Tracy Lucas says:

      I came across one of those little Clairol things in my storage building a few months ago, and opened it to smell it. (That could have gone really badly, now that I think about it…) I know exactly what smell you mean!

      It also reminded me of red-and-black check boxes (from the bank) with a certain kind of marker in it, that Mom used to keep. Can’t remember the details, but I can smell the combination if I close my eyes.

      And your mold comment reminded me that the smell of mildewed wood takes me right back to the old basement family room, where I loved to hide out and read for hours. Forgot all about that one.

      Isn’t it weird, horrible smells turning into warm fuzzies?

  2. eileen o norman says:

    Honey suckle by the swings at my grandmothers.
    The kind of musty smell of a fluffy stuffed animal a boyfriend gave me that I kept for about five years.
    Baby smells after their bath.
    Yellow Roses that Julian often brings me.
    My dad’s pipe when he was trying to cut down on cigarettes.
    A light spring powder smell the nun principal where I taught used.
    Nursing home smells.
    Fresh baked bread.
    The ocean smells when you get close enough.
    The smell of a light spring rain.
    The smell of vegetable soup that I always make the first week of cool weather to celebrate fall.

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