Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sweet memory

"Nothing is more memorable than a smell.  One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains; another, a moonlit beach; a third, a family dinner of pot roast and sweet potatoes during a myrtle-mad August in a Midwestern town.  Smells detonate softly in our memory like poignant land mines hidden under the weedy mass of years.  Hit a tripwire of smell and memories explode all at once.  A complex vision leaps out of the undergrowth."  ~Diane Ackerman,  A Natural History of the Senses

via flickr
That is exactly what happened to me this morning. I was standing outside the hardware store with Sawyer, just about to cross the parking lot and head back to the van. But the shelves of winter pansies and a few pots of hyacinths caught my eye. "Oh! Be sure to stop and smell the flowers," I said to Sawyer, and turned back so we could take a sniff of the bright white blooms.

The moment I did, I was instantly whisked back to being a little girl, standing in my grandma's driveway. Hyacinths and bluebells lined the walk to the side door, and I stopped to drink in their scent. I can see vividly my mom's van parked on the side of the street, right along the grass. I can see my grandma waving from the kitchen window and then hear her voice call out from the top of the stairs, "Hello, Erin Byrne!" I can hear the squeak of the screen door as I pull it open, and see her waiting for me on the top step. I can feel that feeling I would get, the feeling of delightful anticipation of all the fun to come. And then I race up the stairs into my grandma's waiting arms.

All that in the parking lot of Canadian Tire, thanks to a single hyacinth bloom. Amazing. I'm so glad I stopped to smell the flowers.


  1. Lovely memory. Smell is SO powerful, yet underestimated. And strange: I had just put this book on my list and here you are quoting from it. I trust it's a good read?

  2. Every Christmas for the past ten years i get some hyacinths through the post (i Know! they come all packeged up with that white stuff..) they come from a lady whose mu I looked after when I worked in a previous job for a charity. It amazes me every year when they arrive, and I always remember her :)

  3. This is so true! I have the same experience whenever I smell lilacs. We had a bush in our backyard when I was little and they instantly take me back to that time.

  4. It really struck me how strong our sense of smell is over the past two years. Twice I have smelled something (once a gingery smell and another a floral) that reminded me so strongly of my mom that I had to stop and take it all in.

    I did not consciously remember these memories. The gingery one brought up a time at my grandparents' house when my mom was reading me a scratch-and-sniff book that had that same smell in it. The other floral smell, was honeysickle .... it immediately called a day in the park to mind. I was probably 8 or so at the time. We had taken a walk as a family and my sister and I stopped to pick and lick honeysuckle.

    It's a gift I think. That our senses can provide us with such wondrous happenings that even our minds can't produce for us unaided.

    I'm so very glad you stopped to smell the flowers too. How magical.

  5. This is so lovely Erin. My nan's house always smelt like freshly baked bread which is wonderful as that smell is so easy to find to conjure up images of her baking away in the kitchen.

  6. aw, that's so sweet! sometimes that happens when someone passes me wearing a certain colon or perfume. instant memories!

  7. Beautiful.

    And hyacinths are my favourite spring bloom :)


  8. For me, there are three scents that are really special: a candle I own that smells like my grandmother did, lilacs (she had them in her yard), and honeysuckle (which was abundant in my back yard when I was little). It's amazing the power something so simple like a smell can have.

  9. Oh Erin I know EXACTLY what you mean!!! I associate so many places and memories by the perfume I wore when I was in each place/moment. I have one perfume that when I smell I am instantly taken back to a heavenly week I spent in Key West, Florida. When I smell another I am taken back to my wedding day. And of course I have a special scent that takes me back to London. I've been meaning forever to write a blog post about this as well because I also am amazed by how a simple scent can take you somewhere. Same with certain songs.
    I love, love, love the sweet memory you shared! How wonderful to be taken back to your grandma's! It touched my heart and I can just picture you as a girl full of smiles at your grandma's. And to just imagine if you hadn't stopped and smelled the flowers! xo

  10. Is it just me or as you get older do you seem more aware of smells that bring back memories? I am sure I didn't do this quite so much five years ago but more recently I seem to do this all the time.
    Freesias are the ones that bring back memories of my Grandma without fail.
    Beautiful post Erin!

  11. Yes yes yes! I feel like this happens to me all the time and it can really catapult me into a specific memory. While walking home last night, crunching through the freshly fallen snow and listening to the quiet, I passed a local coffee shop and smelled cookies baking. It instantly transported me to my childhood kitchen where I was sitting at the table eating oatmeal cookies after a snowy adventure in my hot pink snowsuit.


Yay! I love comments.


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