I walked into the house the other day, and I smelled popcorn. That popcorn smell reminded me of a certain leisure activity, and where that activity occurs, and then I thought about how amazing it is that one smell can trigger all of those thoughts.
I associate the smell of popcorn with going to the movies. I thought about going to the old Tyson Theater, (the Castor and the Benner were also options in my youth). I thought about sitting in those old-fashioned movie houses, with popcorn and Milk Duds and not having a care in the world.
All because of one smell.
There are other smells that take me way back. I love the smell of chocolate chip cookies. When I smell that smell, I think “all is well”. When my mother made chocolate chip cookies, it meant that life was good. I still have that feeling when I smell chocolate chip cookies.
There are other smells that bring that good feeling. The smell of cookouts and burning leaves are really positive for me. They remind me that people spend time outdoors with their families and friends.
The smell of my wifes’ favorite perfume is a great smell. That smell means life is good. It means that we are dressing up and going out, and all is well in the world.
The smell of the ocean is like that, too. I can smell the ocean before I ever see it. That “salt water smell” reminds me of vacations and beaches and sunshine. I love that smell.
But not every smell brings back that “life is good” feeling. Some smells remind me of sad times.
There is a smell in nursing homes and hospitals. That smell reminds me of my mother and my grandmother, and some of their end-of-life times. That smell is burned into my brain.
When I was in elementary school, the school custodian had this stuff that I used to call “puke powder”. Anytime a student vomited, the custodian came around with this yellow powder which soaked up the vomit. It was sort of like a HazMat scene. There was a chemical in that powder that I still smell from time to time. Whenever I smell that chemical, it takes me right back to Solis-Cohen Elementary School.
Medicine has smells, too. Anytime I smell grape juice, I think of the grape flavor in cough syrup. The smell of bubble gum reminds me of liquid antibiotics that my children had to take.
Why do smells have such powerful effects? I can’t think of sounds or tastes or touches that evoke those kinds of reactions in me.
I want some chocolate chip cookies……