General Question

McBean's avatar

What are your most powerful "smell memories"?

Asked by McBean (1693 points ) August 30th, 2008

Different smells evoke different emotional anchors in people, depending on their past experiences.

I’m not sure what GenX’ers are anchored to, but Baby boomers are supposed to sigh over the smells of Play Dough, vinyl records, and cotton candy, while the generation before will connect with the smells of kerosene and pine trees.

Are there any smells that take you right back to your childhood? How do you feel when you smell them?

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39 Answers

McBean's avatar

Just a few of my own examples: The smell I associatewith Spring – which as far as I can figure out – is a mixture of wet lawn, citrus blossoms, and jasmine, always takes me back to when I was about 4 years-old. I was in my grandmother’s back yard and I had just found the remnants of a tiny egg that had fallen out of a nest.

The smell of burnt sugar takes me right back to a summer afternoon in my grandmother’s kitchen. I can still see the beam of sunlight that was filtering through the window. I must have been about 6.

gailcalled's avatar

The smell of burning leaves, alas, illegal now. Cut grass, balsam pillows, a breeze from the SE across a fresh-water lake on a summer day, lilacs in the spring, wild honeysuckle, burned toffee, onions frying in chicken fat, and my paternal grandfather’s breakfasts of salami and brandy.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

Almost every person I’ve ever been REALLY close to had a smell, an undescribable smell, and any time I smell that smell (which is rare) I am swamped with memories and feelings associated with that person.
Also, camping took up a good portion of my childhood so the smell of fire and/or musty camper brings me back, haha.

gailcalled's avatar

Right. I forgot the toasted marshmallow and the mildewed mattresses. Thanks for the trigger, A Needle.

McBean's avatar

Yup…campfire smoke and toasted marshmallows. Ahhh…

skfinkel's avatar

@McB and Gail: As a relatively new grandmother, I am thrilled that you both refer to memories associated with a grandparent. I hope to have enough opportunity with my grandchild at my own home to provide some lovely memories for her (and whoever may follow—grandchild-wise) as well.

For myself, I have memories associated with doing things or at a place: the smell of a deteriorating and old edition of “Heidi” that I read and smelled as the pages disintegrated in my hands as I turned them. Also certain steps on the stairs in my house would stir a memorable good odor that would suddenly bring me back to much younger days.

Currently, the intoxicating smell of blackberries in the air in August in the Pacific NW are so fabulous that I just walk around taking deep breaths.

McBean's avatar

Those of you with children in elementary school: Have you noticed that the smell of school cafeterias and classrooms have never changed?

augustlan's avatar

I don’t really associate scents with events, but I do experience emotions related to them. Vanilla smells like a happy home. Honeysuckle smells wild and free. Spring smells like a new beginning.

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

Certain kinds of chapstick will get to me, as well. I have a scent/flavor for each season practically.

gailcalled's avatar

@skfinkel; and the smell of the roses there, too.

SuperMouse's avatar

The smell of pipe tobacco (Bond Street to be exact) brings me back to the kitchen in childhood home. That smell that is unique to Volkswagens (if you have ever owned an older VW you know the smell I’m talking about), reminds me of weekends with my grandparents. The slightly musty smell of a basement finds me sitting on the bench in front of my grandmother’s player piano belting out Bad Leroy Brown with my brothers and sisters and cousins. The smell of star jasmine and citrus blossoms define spring for me.

McBean's avatar

@SuperMouse: I know that VW smell! When I was growing up, that’s all we owned! I’d forgotten about that smell completely.

AstroChuck's avatar

Whenever I’m near someone that is wearing Youth Dew (by Estée Lauder) I think of my late grandmother, the same grandma that Mother’s Iced Raisin cookies makes me think of.

sdeutsch's avatar

I usually hate the smell of cigarette smoke, but the smell of the brand that my grandfather used to smoke (Marlboros, I think) always brings back good memories of him…

generalspecific's avatar

eucalyptus, for some reason. just reminds me of the “good ol’ days”
and yes.. the smell of burning leaves is wonderful

tinyfaery's avatar

What a coincidence. Yesterday I had such a visceral sense memory. I was at a training workshop that was about dealing with LGBT issues in our workplace (Yup. That was a good use of my time.) The presenter passed around Mr. Sketch scented markers. The moment I opened the red/cherry I was reminded of being 8 years old, and happy times. I made a point to smell every marker.

McBean's avatar

@tiny: Now that’s what I’m talking about!

charliecompany34's avatar

the smell of beef as in roast beef before it actually becomes roast beef. my mother would sear the meat first with the strings on. peppers and onions would accent the smell and i remember it to be one of the most comforting aromas of my childhood.

loser's avatar

Mine is, “Oh yeah! Wake up!” when I smell coffee!

basp's avatar

Fresh cut grass, turkey cooking in the oven, clean baby and the air after the rain.

stratman37's avatar

vinegar always reminds me of coloring easter eggs!

BluRhino's avatar

Eucalyptus gets me, too. First thing that comes into my mind is a feeling of a past life.

stratman37's avatar

I find certain perfumes remind me of past women, even when my wife wears ‘em today. But I don’t say as much – I’m not STUPID!

AstroChuck's avatar

Not unless she is reading this thread.

McBean's avatar

@Blu: That’s interesting. Smell memories are pretty strong, I wonder if they would transcend death and rebirth. (Might you have been a koala?)

BluRhino's avatar

@McBean: I believe they would; and perhaps I was a Koala; I’m still so cute and cuddly…...

McBean's avatar

Blu…But there’s that horn…It’s kind of off-putting if you’re sensitive to being jabbed or gored.

generalspecific's avatar

@blu: i know exactly what you mean, i have the same feeling… i can’t explain it really
but it’s so comforting, i love it

peteylove's avatar

My Gramps used to put this V05 hair oil in his hair right after his shower. He died when i was in elementary school and since then i’ve started to for get him. But when i smell that oil I start to remember little things about him.

tinyfaery's avatar

@petey My grandpa too!!

ladybugmecca's avatar

Smells can be locked in your psyche. Honey suckles will always be remembered as the flowers at my grandmas wedding 20 years ago.

amurican's avatar

Crispy cream

AstroChuck's avatar

You mean Krispy Kreme.
They closed all of them here in Sacramento.

amurican's avatar

Thank you AstroChuck. Without “word perfect” I have to muddle along using phoenetics which I cant spell eeethur!

amurican's avatar

AstroChuck has accumulated an astonishing amount of stars next to his name. A galaxey in his own right. Better get back on subject with “Krispee Kreme” as my final answer.

amurican's avatar

Or is it her name? No matter…...

Baloo72's avatar

The smell of my new car, the smell of a wood shop, and the smell of my home.

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