Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The nose knows

When you perceive a smell and suddenly remember something that you've forgotten for years, that is your olfactory and memory at work. There is a more detailed explanation of how the two do their thing, but I'm not here to give you a lesson in olfaction, look it up if you don't believe me - geesh do I have to do everything?

I bring up the olfactory nerve synapses (don't I sound all smart and stuff?) because the other day I was taken back to my late teenage years, yeah...way back. I walked into the grocery store, like I do every week without olfactory interruption - mostly because I am always in a hurry. I'm not one of those people who browse the isles at a moderate pace, no I'm a speed shopper. I'm in and I'm out. That's just how I roll. But this week I wasn't in a rush, I had no place to be so I took my time. When I walked in the smell hit me. (just that regular grocery store smell, if you don't know what I'm talking about take a moment and breathe it in the next time you go)

I was taken back to a time when I worked in the meat department of my local grocery store. I thought about getting there at 6 AM every morning. I thought about how freaking cold it was in that little room behind the glass. Yeah people, it's freeeeeeeeezing in there. I thought about how simpler my job was back then. Put the meat in the tray, weigh it, run it through the machine and slap on a price sticker. Now my days are consumed with ROI reports, revising our company web page, weekly meetings, spread sheets, presentations and endless emails of people who all want a little piece of me. Almost like I'm a piece of meat, funny how life comes full circle that way.

It always amazes me when I have moments like that. When just a smell brings back a memory or a feeling.

The smell of Eternity perfume reminds me of when I was in my early 20's. I practically bathed in that stuff.

I love the smell of books (especially old books) because it reminds me of the fifth grade, when I realized how much I loved reading and would spend hours in the library.

The smell of fresh cut grass makes me think of playing in our yard when I was a kid.

The smell of the laundry when it comes out of the washer brings me back to helping my grandmother hang the clothes outside.

The smell of a fire burning outside makes me think of the summer I spent camping with friends at the beach.

It's incredible how the whole olfactory nerve synapses thing works. How just a smell can bring you back in time.

Do you have a certain smell that brings you back?


SharonKendrew said...

There's a particular smell that I can't even describe that reminds me of my grandparent's house. It makes me sad because I miss them so much, and happy because I loved them so much and sad again because my kids never had grandparents like I did.

I hope someday when I have grandchildren they remember me with a smell and it makes them nostalgic for the good old days. And hopefully that smell is not a combination of mothballs and cabbage...

Anonymous said...

Mine is the smell of Charmin Tissue Paper. This is gonna sound weird, but it reminds me of when I was a kid and little baby birds fell out of the end of our metal clothesline pole. You know, the kind made out of two metal poles in a "T" shape.
The robins insisted on building nests in the holes at the end and every spring, at least one or two babies would fall out. Of, course, Momma had no way of getting them back in, so I would take them in the house and try to raise them.
This is where the Charmin comes in: make a nest of Charmin in a shoebox, use an eyedropper to feed it sugar water, and Voila! Baby Bird alive for a few more days! I actually kept one alive long enough to make it to Show and Tell in the 4th grade.
I think this is when I decided I would be a Vet.
Ahh Memories!

Babs Killabez