Memories…Aromatically Speaking

Talk about a loaded question. I was just asked if I had a memory linked to a smell. One would hope the person posing such a question was looking for an answer like one of these. “Yes, baby powder! It makes me think of my firstborn.” Or something like, “Oh my yes, Lilacs! It reminds me of my memaw’s garden.”

Many folks hearing or reading a question about memories spawned by aromas might think of something less pleasant than the above examples. This would be especially true of folks like first responders, people who worked with animals, farmed, or worked in some industries where odors were constant.

In my case, I can think of dozens of memories triggered by smells ranging from gunpowder to much less pleasant sources. The problem is those memories often come kaleidoscopically after something triggers the first one.

In some ways, it can be similar to bird attack scenes in the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds. Memories seem to come flying in from all directions. Hammering your mind like the birds pecked the characters in the film.

One way to avoid such instances of memories dive-bombing you like a mad momma bird is to take control of your memories. The key is to make peace with the past and not let the more disturbing memories control you.

One way I found to do that is to focus on the good memories and help them rise to the top of the playlist. One way to accomplish that feat is through repetition and humor. For example, my wife is a second-generation American. Her mother, aunts, uncles, and grandparents immigrated from a society that believed garlic was the most important vegetable in the garden.

That was an eye-opener for me in more ways than one. It also became a family joke. The punch line was if I got lost, all I had to do was follow the smell to find our house. I know it’s silly, but the smell and taste of garlic as a seasoning is indelibly linked to home and a great marriage.

And we’ve never seen a vampire, werewolf, or devil near our home.

© 2023



About S. Eric Jackson

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4 Responses to Memories…Aromatically Speaking

  1. The Hinoeuma says:

    Gardenias. My maternal grandmother grew them on either side of the backdoor. Always takes me back to her farm…

  2. Oh, garlic, my love.. I could eat garlic sauce with a spoon..

  3. A great post, and one I can identify with from my time in the Army and my own love for Italian food seasoned with garlic. It’s kept the vampires away from us, too, apparently.

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