Sunday, March 20, 2011


We walk, hand-in-hand, into the store.

Amelia, sniffing the air: "Mmm, it smells good in here!"

Me, smiling: "Well, that is the smell of new, clean shoes. This is a shoe store."

Amelia sniffs again: "I like this store. It smells good."

Me: "I'm glad, sweetie. Let's find you some flip-flops"

A few minutes later...
Amelia: "Mommy? I have a question. Will my feet smell better if I buy shoes here?"

The sense of smell is most closely connected to memory. The scent of fresh pine may bring you immediately to a pre-Christmas memory on the tree lot. Your grandmother's perfume can remind you of a time when you were enveloped in her hugs. And perhaps years from now, the smell of a shoe store will make my daughter think of a day she enjoyed a weekday morning shopping trip. A time when she still held my hand.

Her endearing commentary got me thinking. What sensory experiences remind me of childhood?

The scent of fabric softener. Open the linen closet in my childhood home, and you smell it. Clean, freshly-scented sheets and towels give me a sense of calm, a sense of comfort at home. A first night in newly-laundered sheets? To me, it's divine.

The strong odor of chlorine. We had a swimming pool for most of my childhood. My sister and I spent hours on end in the water each summer. For many years, we used those round white chlorine tablets in the filter system. I don't see those around much anymore, but I can distinctly remember that smell. If you handed me one today, I would be transported to our pool in Tennessee, my sister and I running around the circular edge to make a whirlpool. Swimming at night. Spreading the solar cover across the water, anxiously awaiting tomorrow's dip.

 And what about other senses? My husband sighs whenever he hears the distinct sound of an aluminum bat on a baseball. That ding (donk?) brings him back to Little League.

For me, it's the buzzing of cicadas in the summer. That ever-present sound was always there, waiting for us, during our annual family beach vacation. They remind me that the weather is hot and the sun is doing its job.

And touch? A worn, handmade blanket. I am a 32-year old mommy with a quilt I adore. Handmade at least a decade ago by my (now 99-year-old) grandma with cool and colorful materials, it is something I love to touch. It is the kind of blanket you can throw over your legs no matter the season; it is never too warm. I brought it with me to the hospital and used it the days following Amelia's birth. It came with me to another hospital, to provide that home touch as I recovered from a surgery. The materials are worn and thin, but I can't bear to give it up. It screams cozy even on my most stressful days.

Think about your senses. What sounds, smells, feels, sights, or tastes bring you back to happy memories? What sensory experiences are our sweet children going to hold dear one day?
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