Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What was that smell?!

“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived.” ~ Helen Keller

Baby powder. Baby poop. Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. Roses in full bloom. My son's stinky tennis shoes when he was ten, my daughter's Love's Baby Soft body spray...

Aromas are evocative; they take us everywhere we have been. I don't know why, but I can still remember the smell of spray starch. Half a century ago I starched and ironed shirts and blouses before high school.

I can still smell Aqua Net Hairspray, and the odor of engine grease and motor oil in the garage. The smell of my grandma's basement, damp from a metal wash tub of hot rinse water draining into the sewer. This aroma takes me back to early childhood. I still love the smell of a damp (not musty) basement. The smell of  hot, Spic and Span mop water makes me envision my mom as a young woman. How DID she wring that mop in such hot water?

This morning I opened a magazine and found a sample of ORIGINAL SCENT JERGENS  Lotion.  When I ripped the corner and the lotion oozed out, so did the memories.

After my own little girl scent of Ivory Soap, and my teenage odor of Noxzema, I graduated to my mom's JERGENS Lotion. It served me well for twenty years. Then I made good friends with pink Oil of Olay. Now it's Ponds, but in my mind, I return to JERGENS Lotion time and again.

My favorite women wore it. Mom slathered it on her snake skin legs, transforming them to soft and supple, like magic in a minute.

As a young mom, I washed dishes by hand, then I coated my hands with JERGENS.

When my grandma was hospitalized and dying, she asked me to massage her face with my Oil of Olay. I worked it over her cheeks and chin, and when I stopped, she said, " My whole face...my forehead, my eyelids." So I rubbed it in.

I didn't like the outcome. Grandma smelled like me, not herself.

In my childhood when she kissed me goodbye, she had red lipstick on her mouth and JERGENS Lotion on her cheek.  She always left a red lipstick kiss print on my cheek along with the faint fragrance of JERGENS from her super soft cheeks.

Yes, scents are evocative. Do you use the sense of smell in your writing? Some of you are not writers, but even if you email instead of write letters, why don't you trip somebody's olfactory sense?

How about mine? What smells transport you?     

13 comments:

Cathy C. Hall said...

So true, Linda! Whenever I smell Irish Spring soap I'm a 20 year old, living in Rome, Italy and suddenly I not only feel younger but my whole mood improves. I guess that's the soap I brought along for the summer...

I should probably keep Irish Spring on my desk. :-)

Thanks for the reminder about scents!

K9friend said...

Once I bought a different brand from my usual box of dryer sheets. When I opened it and got a whiff of the floral/lavender mixture fragrance, I immediately thought of my mom. The scent was almost an exact match to a perfume she used to wear. Both scent and music are very strong memory/mood triggers for me.

Pat
Critter Alley

Mevely317 said...

I've gotta get me a bottle of that original Jergens! Simple pleasures, indeed!

You know what else I wish I might smell again? 'Not sure what they call it, but as a kid I'd love to stick my head deep down inside the grocer's frozen food section and inhale that wonderful refrigerant(?) aroma.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Cinnamon always reminds me of my grandmother's homemade cinnamon rolls.

Bookie said...

So much of your smells are ones I remember too. I miss the smell of my Gran's skin...it was a musky smell all her own. I miss my Dad's smell of freshly applied Old Spice and his cherry pipe tobacco.

Merlesworld said...

It's funny how they trigger old memories.
Merle........

Val said...

My grandma used Jergens. I always snuck some after washing my hands in her bathroom, where the curvy bottle with the narrow spout sat on the back of the toilet tank. I went in there a lot for that very purpose.

Tammy said...

This really took me back. My mother and grandmother used Jergens, too.

Susan Sundwall said...

My mother wore To A Wild Rose sachet from Avon. It was Her scent and floated from the bedroom and down the hall after her. She sucked Life Savers, wintergreen, too. Both helped with the cigarette odor that also surrounded her. Great memories come with smell - and warnings. I never picked up a cigarette. Thanks, Linda!

Daisy said...

Smells really do take you on a journey. Some of my favorites are fresh-baked cinnamon rolls my Mom used to make and the fragrance of lilacs on a breeze.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Yes! Odors are extremely evocative, and I do try to use scents etc. in my writing. Some of your smells reminded me of things, too--happy memories--so thank you for that. :)

Theresa Sanders said...

Oh, I so love this post, Linda. You and I are of one mind when it comes to Jergens Original Scent -- that subtle smell of cherry was my grandmother's house. I used to tiptoe into her bedroom and use it to my heart's content. I loved Love's Baby Soft too as a teen, and also Avon's Sweet Honesty. The perfume I use today is Sephora's Pure Grace for that Ivory Soap aroma.

I think smells are so important in both writing and in life. I can still smell my grandbaby on my chair after he's been here. We sit together and watch "bideos" and it's such a precious time. I love how his smell lingers, how his little life, if only for those few moments in time, mingles with mine. It really feels heartbreakingly sweet. And now, after reading your lovely words, I better go dry my eyes :)

Susan said...

Hi Linda. I have, indeed, used smells in my writing. I love the fragrance of some flowers, especially roses; gingerbread baking in the oven; fresh coffee in the morning; grass right after it's been mowed; Yankee and Village scented candles; burning leaves in autumn; and my baby granddaughter and baby grandson, right after baths. Susan