Many of us have experienced vivid memories triggered by scent. Researchers attribute this to the proximity of the olfactory nerve to the amygdala, which is associated with emotional memory.* Science lesson aside, the feeling can often be very powerful, transcending time and space. We smell a familiar scent that evokes a strong memory from childhood; the bubble bath we used when my sisters and I would pile into the bathtub; all three of us. My father, his early childhood through the formative years spanning the Great Depression, was extremely frugal. We were allowed about three inches of water in our bath, but we made the most of it with lots of bubbles. No wonder our skin was dry and itched like crazy.
To this day I associate “clean” with the chemically smell of Lysol, Pine-sol and Comet Cleanser. Our clothing smelled of White King D, Fels Naptha Soap and lot’s of Clorox. My dear mother prided herself on how white her whites were. When I think of my own children and the scents they will associate with childhood, I think a musty smell will play a prominent role in their olfactory triggers. I tend to have a 24-hour waiting period between the wash cycle and remembering to put the clothes in the dryer. Adding half the box of Bounce sheets does very little to freshen things up. I’ve given up on re-running the washing machine, because another 24-hours elapses so quickly! I just can’t break the cycle.
As for other scents that will cause a misty-eyed, nostalgic response from my children, dare I mention my car? It’s for good reason we call it “The Family Dumpster”. The Jeep has its own special brand of decaying snacks, sweaty soccer socks, and spilled coffee with cream. It’s an all natural blend, like a Joe Malone perfume. Certainly my children won’t be able to walk near a dumpster 30 years from now without thinking of Dear Old Mum barreling down the freeway, hip hop blasting on the stereo.
* Source: 10 Facts About Memory: Scent Can Be a Powerful Memory Trigger by Kendra Cherry, About.com