I’m a smeller.
Oh, I don’t mean I smell awful, although on a hot summer day I imagine I don’t exactly smell fresh! I’m a smeller because I possess a pretty keen sense of smell.
If there’s an odor in the air, pleasant or malodorous, it seems to reach my nose before my husband’s. Often I ask him, “What’s that smell?” and receive this reply, “What smell?”
The sense of smell, which apparently triggers memories in a powerful and instantaneous way, fascinates me. Actually, my earliest memory is a smell – not a person, not a sight, not an event, but an odor.
When I was a just a toddler, my grandparents lived on a farm for a time. I have no memory whatsoever of visiting them, but I’ve seen pictures of my little self there, petting kittens, posing with my older sisters. So I know I’ve been to that farm, but I can’t recall what it looked like or any event that happened there.
As I grew up, whenever I smelled a particular smoky odor, for some reason it reminded me of my grandparents. One day after puzzling over the connection, I asked my mother about it. She informed me an old smoke-house (where meat was smoked) existed on the farm so that odor permeated throughout my grandparents’ home.
Aha. My first memory – smoked meat – explains why I can’t turn down bacon, doesn’t it?
I’ve read that our sense of smell, more than any other sense, is vitally linked to the part of the human brain that processes emotion. It’s no wonder then that every time I handle a handmade quilt crafted by my grandmother long before my birth, I inhale the smell of it and it brings me to tears. That quilt smells like my beloved Grandma, who I lost when I was nine.
Other odors – and not just onions – cause me to weep also. If I catch a whiff of Chantilly perfume, I automatically recall my late dear mother-in-law; that scent, her favorite, reminds me how much I miss her. Smelling freshly laundered and hung outside to dry clothes evoke sweet memories of my mother as does the clean aroma of soap.
Fragrances mesh firmly with my memories, nice or otherwise, which is also why the men’s after shave, Brut, brings my first boyfriend to mind, although I’d definitely rather forget him. I don’t enjoy the scent of roses, although I love to partake of their beauty. Just don’t make me smell them. There must be some negative connection to their fragrance, but I haven’t figured out yet what it might be.
Researchers say children possess more acute senses of smell than older folks and that as we age, we start losing some of our smell-ability. I lost my ‘smeller’ once when I had an atrocious case of bronchitis, sinus and double ear infections all at once. It was Thanksgiving time and I couldn’t smell a darn thing.
No delicious aroma of roasting turkey or pumpkin pie registered with me, not even a hint. To top it all off, I lost my sense of taste at the same time. When I closed my eyes and chewed my food, I couldn’t distinguish mashed potatoes from peas – certainly not an enjoyable Thanksgiving feast! So I hope to maintain my sense of smell as long as possible!
Not only can odors flood our thoughts with memories, they supposedly influence our moods and even affect work performance. You could try to use that one as an excuse. “Boss, I just can’t finish my work today because there’s this awful smell here.” Just don’t blame it on the person in the next cubicle or your boss!
Yesterday I realized how grateful I am for the sense of smell. As I arrived home, I inhaled a most aromatic odor – roasted chicken wrapped in bacon, baked to perfection by my hubby – which almost smelled as good to me as he does. Nothing welcomes us like a house full of home-cooked aroma.
Helen Keller, who lost her sense of sight and hearing at an early age, once said, “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.”
The aroma of fresh-cut grass transports me back to my childhood. What about you? What smells conjure up pleasant memories for you? Take a minute, reflect and share your thoughts on this 11th page, Chapter Three in my book called Opportunity.
“Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. You’re only here for a short visit. So don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.” ~ Walter Hagen