A little boy who was in Abby's class suffered a severe brain injury last month. He is on the road to recovery. One of the therapies they are using with him is to introduce familiar smells to stimulate brain activity. Smell is closely tied to memory. Few things can stimulate recall like familiar scents.
Several weeks ago I attended a parent-teacher conference at school. The smell of chicken and hot dish soap instantly conjured images of orange lunch trays, cardboard milk cartons and lunch ladies garbed in plastic aprons, gloves and hairnets. I can see myself standing in line, waiting for tired women to slap a spoonful of chicken and dumplings, overcooked green beans, a brilliant orange yam and a slice of peanut butter cake on my tray. It seems like no matter what is being prepared in the lunchroom, it always smells like chicken to me!
A whiff of honeysuckle in late May and I am riding my bike, barefoot, around the block... drawn by the sweet smell to stop, pick a few flowers and collect the drops of "honey" clinging to the ends of the stems. I can feel the warm breeze, hear the whine of mosquitos and taste the dewy sweetness as clearly as if I had climbed into a time machine and whisked back through the decades to a spring day in 1985.
The scent of Irish Spring soap reminds of baths in the claw-footed tub at Grandmother Hall's. The gleam of sunlight through homemade curtains, the feel of the bristles of a nail brush under my nails, the creak of floorboards as Grandmother brought in a fresh towel and a bottle of Jergen's lotion for after the bath.
Chimney smoke wafts by and I can see my dad adding another piece of wood to the wood burning heater while my mother sits so close to the warmth she is almost IN the fireplace, reading a book. A patchwork blanket wrapped over her and her glasses perched either on her nose or on top of her head. The squeaks of the rocking chair as she rocks and reads. Oblivious to anything outside the pages of that book. The warmth, the noises, the images are so vivid they are almost touchable. As clear as a photograph.
So perhaps nostalgia is all in the nose?
6 months ago