Recently I was out running errands early in the morning, and as I got out of my car, something about the slant of light and the smell hit me with such force I couldn’t breathe for a minute. It reminded me of being at my Grandmothers in Florida, the early morning smell of the air, grass and sunshine that tells you it will be a beautiful day. I was struck by how clear the memory was and overcome with emotion. Not sad mind you, but happy. While my Grandmother passed away a number of years ago, for me, memories of her make me smile when I remember her. She was a great lady.
It’s interesting and strange, the power of smell and memory. For some people it’s not smell at all but a certain movie, TV show, song or world event that triggers strong memories but for me the strongest memories have always been from smell. Once walking through a store, I smelled White Shoulders, a perfume I didn’t even know they still made and immediately I see my Grandmother, with full makeup, clothes, hair done and perfume on…at the breakfast table. We always had to dress for breakfast and I still smile when I am at home in my PJs, with wild hair and no makeup. Or take the time I was at a restaurant and a guy walked by who used Neutrogena Rainbath shower gel – I am transported back to school sitting next to a boy I was crazy about who always smelled of that shower gel.
While I realize not all memories are happy, many can be painful and sad, I am grateful to hold them all, for memory reminds us of where we came from and those collections of memories define who we are. To this day, I can’t stand the smell of sandwich meat. Those smells bring back a memory of lunch the day of my Father’s funeral and remind me how very much I miss him.
I’ve been thinking about smells and the play of light triggering memories and decided that Beth Laurens, a character in a paranormal fiction book I’m working on, has this character trait. She is patiently waiting for me to get her words on the page but soon she will start yelling at me to get moving and tell her story. Why do I talk about her like she’s real? For me, characters are real. They speak in your head at the most inopportune times and you either put their words down or try to ignore them. Ignore them at your own peril, ignore them too long – they go away and you find yourself all grown up, years later, without a speck of creativity or imagination in your soul. So I am listening and maybe in the near future you’ll see her story.
What triggers memories for you? TV shows, songs, movies, world events, sounds, tastes, or smells?