As I was ascending the escalator at Penn Station in New York late on Tuesday night, I ran smack into an old boyfriend and was immediately transported back to a time almost 30 years ago when I was young and extremely smitten for the first time in my life. I didn’t stop to talk to him. Because he wasn’t there. I smelled him. Someone riding the escalator in the other direction must have been wearing half a bottle of the same Blue Jeans cologne my first love fancied back in the day. And the memory trigger was immediate and strong.
My friend Channa who insisted that I do not quote her on this told me that she read somewhere that smell was the sense that had the greatest level of memory recall. I have to believe this to be the case.
There are certain smells that take me to specific times and places in my past. The sweetscent of Aussie Hair Spray whisks me to my college years when we “scrunched” our hair for maximum volume. New car smell will always remind me of the day my parents bought the two tone green Dodge Van when I was a little girl in the 1970s. Eau de Chlorine puts me at the indoor pool at summer camp. The essence of Similac baby formula puts me on the sofa in our first house feeding Noah and watching The View on maternity leave. And there are other smells I can’t descibe but immediately remind me of the grade school cafeteria, my best friend’s house growing up, and the local ice cream shop.
More than anything, smells trigger memories of people. Most of my old boyfriends had a certain scent about them – whether it was the cheap cologne (Old Spice) or the shampoo (Strawberry Suave) they used. Grandparents are particularly smell worthy. My Mom-Mom is pea soup. Pop-Pop is cigars. Dave will smell moustache wax and blurt out, “I smell PapaDoc!” While these odors on their own are not terribly appealing, when associated with those we love, they become pleasing and nostalgic, especially when people are no longer with us.
One of the best pieces of wedding advice I received was from a hair dresser who advised me to select a brand new scent for the big day – and don’t wear it until then. That way, whenever I smell that particular perfume I will think of my wedding. She was absolutely right. Any time I wear Alfred Sung, I’m walking down the aisle all over again. A life long gift.
I have no idea what ever happened to Blue Jeans boy. But smelling him on the escalator in Penn Station pulled up a memory I had buired for quite some time. I wonder if anyone ever has – or ever will – smell me when I’m not there. And I wonder what that smell is. I really hope it’s not pea soup – but if whatever it is makes the person smile – then I guess that’s okay.Give it up MoB readers! What are your trigger smells and who, what, where do they remind you of? Good, bad or scandalous. Please share.