scents and sensibility.


The New York Times recently published an article in which they discuss the power of scents to transport us. “Scents and memory are inextricably tied together – the smell of a grandmother’s house, a childhood pet, or a particular brew of morning tea.” NYT restaurant critic, Tejal Rao, has even has created a “Smell Museum” of her life in LA, cataloging the aromas she encountered in her home and office. The paper asked readers to send them their scent memories. This got me thinking about my own scent memories:

 Freshly cut grass – brings me back to my childhood Saturday mornings, waking up to my dad mowing the lawn, windows open, curtains blowing

Jergen’s Lotion (Original Scent) – Almond and Cherry – the lotion my mother bought and we all used

Coffee brewing – When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I was drawn to this amazing aroma and I never have stopped loving it

Baby’s Heads – Always takes me instantly back to when my babies were little

Herbal Essense Shampoo – (Original Scent )- My teen years, and trying to figure out life, I felt beautiful when using this shampoo on my hair


What are some of your scent memories? Good or bad –

“nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.”

  • -vladimir nabokov



credits: NYT – Jaspal Rivait, Melissa Kirch, Tejal Rao

62 responses »

  1. The smell you get when heavy rain starts falling on a very dry and dusty ground always takes me back to my tropical childhood. Never fails. If you’ve never noticed this, watch out for it because it’s not like any other smell.

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  2. When I was a kid, my Gradma would visit and make these amazing sticky rolls. The aroma was fantastic. She’d open the windows and before long every kid in the neighborhood was in our back yard. She’d go out and make sure everybody got one. In my later years, I think the smell of a freshly opened oyster is part of my core memories.

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  3. The fragrance of rain on parched earth is an all time favourite. Mangoes and jackfruit ripening is a shortcut to childhood. Soapnut suds( now rare) is definitely grandma washing my hair when I was around 6 years old.
    Lovely post!

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  4. Smells are such memory keepers. When we smell something specific a certain feeling kicks in reflexively. Sometimes we don’t even remember where we were programmed but the feeling is there anyway. As an aromatherapist, this is an essential part of my work. Scents cause feelings through memories but also activate parts in our brain to stimulate hormones or other reactions in our bodies without our conscious action.

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  5. This is wonderful Beth. I love the smells of baby heads as well, and gas/oil take me back to summers filled with motorcyle riding on ‘the farm’, and honeysuckle (childhood) and Old Spice (dad) and Royal Secret (mom). Now I’ll be thinking of wonderful aromas all day. 🙂

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  6. I love that picture by the way. Yes, scent give memories for me too. A special bath gel called “Badedas” gives me fond memories of my grandmother, as she bathed us in it, she smelled of it and the smell is divine. The scent of some trees looking like Thuja ( not sure of the name) always reminds me of a holiday in France we had when I was a child. I love it when smells give memories as they are unexpected memories.

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  7. Love’s Baby Soft always reminded me of my Grandma (and the scent of anything rose) and the fresh asphalt being poured today reminds me of my memories at Silver Dollar City when my sons were young. I smell memories all the time. Even McDonald’s reminds me of my first job. The smell of apples and my Mom. Cigar smoke and my Grandpa. Thank you for this post Beth. It evoked some great things in my heart (and nose).

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