Scents and Sense Ability

I wrote here a few weeks ago about the ability of music to take you back in time. Well today I experienced the same thing but with a smell. I was using a WetOnes brand wet wipe to clean a milk mustache off Caden’s face when the odor hit me. Witch hazel. I could feel the confusion on my face. “Witch hazel? Why am I smelling …” when it hit me: “it’s in the wipe.” I checked the ingredients. Sure enough, the No. 2 ingredient after water. I don’t know if other moms out there experience the same thing, but I smell witch hazel and I’m immediately taken me back to my post-partum days. After Finn was born the nurse had my mom mix a half-and-half water and witch hazel solution, soak sanitary pads in the mix, and then freeze to make witch hazel ice packs. They were wonderful, but that’s an odor I strongly associate with that time.

Similarly, last night while washing the boys’ hair, the shampoo pulled a similar trick. It’s Suave for kids dragonberry, but it smells identical to the shampoo they used at the salon my mom took me to when I was a little girl. Immediately upon getting a whiff of it I remembered the way the salon looked and my friend’s grandmother scrubbing my head. She made it feel so good to have my hair washed. And the shampoo smelled divine — strawberry with a little something extra.

So while telling a co-worker about it she commented on how certain foods do that for her — mango takes her back to Panama where she was born, and muscadines to her childhood in Georgia. A food example for me is red Tropical Punch koolaid, the official drink of Vacation Bible School.

So it’s not, I guess, that music remembers, but it’s our senses that remember. Sounds, smells, tastes, sights and touches remember.


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