Making Scents of Memories.

Every morning on my way to work, I drive past a construction site, filling up with new homes on a charming, tree-lined street in the charming, tree-lined neighborhood in which I work. Construction itself isn’t so unusual, especially here in Nashville where, everywhere you turn, something old (and often lovely or historical) is being torn down to build something new – like terrible condos. *sigh*

But this isn’t a condemnation of Nashville’s ongoing destination/it-city status, nor on the seemingly thoughtless expansion efforts that are effectively pushing those of lower incomes out of town, thanks to the influx of outsiders coming from either coast with a whole lot more money to spend. I save that rant for in-person discussions (and am usually preaching to the choir anyway… have I mentioned that Chattanooga’s looking better every day?).

The point: that construction site reminds me of someone I used to know who was important to me. Still is, even though we haven’t spoken in almost 15 years. The memory of him is kept alive and well, thanks to the smell of sawdust and the sight of construction: Carhartts and sawdust at the end of every day, back then. I guess it’ll always be like that, and it’s a happy association, so I’m okay with it.

I’ve been thinking about what other sights, sounds, scents, and tastes remind me of times past, or people, or things or events, and what a neat, powerful thing that can be:

  • The smell of Froot Loops reminds me of my grandmother’s house; that old yellow kitchen with the sun streaming through the window. The sound of clocks chiming, all the china blue throughout the house, that gorgeous velvet sofa with the hand-carved wood. The old 50’s car that used real gasoline (ah, that smell) and had red leather seats. A glass bowl of Hershey’s Kisses, another filled with change for me to roll. She always had vanilla ice cream with a chocolate swirl and brownies waiting for us; always had Froot Loops for breakfast.
  • Jergen’s lotion reminds me of my mom.
  • Obsession for Men will always remind me of a dude I went to high school with back in Roswell. I was friends with his sister; he had flipped and styled hair, wore tight jeans and puffy shirts. Total swoon material back then.
  • The smell (and sight) of See’s candy lentils reminds me of my dad. It was such a brief experience, but must have been an important time for me, the one or two times we bought that candy together when I was growing up.
  • Wild onions remind me of growing up in Roswell, too. That empty field next to Scott L’s house; that creek that was so good for finding worms; red clay and white chalk; a time when it was fine for me to make my way home alone.
  • The smell of cut grass and the sight of warm sun as it dapples through the trees reminds me of happiness.
  • Falling leaves, too.
  • And the smell of a burning fire… It reminds me of something I can’t quite put my finger on, like a memory just out of reach, or something deeper, ingrained… eternal and otherworldly, almost. Or like something built into my bones. Never been able to figure that one out.

And then there’s the taste of things… although, only one in particular ever comes to mind: the taste of starlight mints. They remind me of riding in my step-dad’s diesel Mercedes; specifically when I’d be forced to go to church on Sundays, stuck in the car with the smell of diesel, cigarette smoke, and too much Stetson cologne.

(I won’t eat starlight mints, ever again.)

I do think I’ll write a post sometime soon listing all the songs that carry a memory with ’em, though. Even the bittersweet ones are worth remembering.


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