Even once we move to New York.
It always smelled like this, my mother says.
Wet grass and pine.
-from Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
I love reading the comic section of the morning newspaper over coffee in the morning – that and completing the Jumble are part of my daily routine. A few weeks ago after reading “Family Circus,” I immediately cut out the cartoon and pasted it in my notebook. The single frame showed Dolly with a coloring book and crayons explaining to her mom, “Smell that, Mommy? It’s my favorite. A just-opened box of fresh crayons.”
I knew that smell immediately, and suddenly I was six years old again with my nose in a just-opened crayon box. That started me thinking about the importance of smells to evoke memories. We all probably have memories associated with smells, either pleasant or not so pleasant. The smell of mothballs always reminds me of a toy rocking horse named Redboy I had as a child. A whiff of cherry pipe tobacco and my head is filled with memories of a guy I dated in college. The scent of apple or cherry pie fresh from the oven brings my grandmother close once again. In today's Nerdy Book Club post, author Philip Stead was talking about the art room in his high school and how the smell was his favorite part – “…a mixture of oil paints and solvents and photo chemicals and graphite dust and wet clay.”
There are lots of smells I love to experience. Although they may not be associated with a specific memory, they always have some kind of effect on me. I love the smell of:
a freshly opened can of coffee
laundry hanging on the line, warmed by summer sunshine
a wreath of newly cut pine boughs
breaking the seal on a new jar of peanut butter (my husband knows to seek me out when this happens)
smoke from a wood stove on a crisp autumn day
I’m sure there are some smells that would bring back unpleasant memories for me as well, but for the most part, smells are a positive force for me. I guess I’m lucky in that respect.