I know it’s not uncommon for certain smells to evoke memories. In fact, it’s just nature. Smell and memory are both linked to the brain’s limbic system or your “emotional brain,” and thusly, smells get associated with the circumstances during which you smelled them.
However, I think that I’m abnormal…or my emotional brain has been doing some major cardio, because lately I feel like everything I smell reminds me of SOMETHING–for better or for worse.
Garlic and beer remind me of my Dad. I think of my Mom whenever I smell cigarettes, Coca-Cola, and baby powder. Nail polish remover and baking bread remind me of my grandmother, while the smell of a hot hair straightener and Nacho Cheez-Its remind me of my sister.
It’s also a bit disconcerting how these smell associated memories change as your life changes. I used to think of my Grandfather whenever I smelled toffee or Werthers, but since his passing his face comes rushing back into my head from the smell of antiseptic, doctor’s offices and medical gauze. My paternal Grandmother used to be represented by Spaghetti-Os and grilled cheese, now it’s Christmas trees and cinnamon.
It also works for things, too. My house used to smell like wood chips and fire places, but now, due to renovations, it just smells like furniture polish and Yankee candles.
Of course there are the run-of-the-mill smells. Fresh cut grass always smells like summer. Warm rain smells like a spring day. High school smells like pencil erasers and burnt cafeteria food…somethings will never change.
I guess my point is, that all these smells bring comfort. They make me feel safe. They make me feel like I can conquer anything, but there are other smells that scare me. Make me sad. Make me feel lost and alone.
Mountain Dew reminds me of that boy I kicked to the curb in high school only to realize it was a mistake.
Mud and shower mildew remind me of panic attacks–as does carpet dust and rust (because rust reminds me of blood?)
Public pool chlorine reminds me of the first time my “friends” abandoned me for someone “cooler.”
Acne medicine reminds me of the boy who broke my heart. I can’t spot-treat a zit without a heart-pang running down my spine.
I know it’s easy to accumulate these smell-memory connections, but is there a way to get rid of them?
I’d like to lose some of them…at least the bad ones.