… memory isn’t an arm or a leg, to be controlled at will.
Sometimes a memory leaps like a big playmate who hasn’t booked a play date. It won’t take no for an answer. I try to sit with it. I try to give it my attention.
Then later, when I call, it won’t come.
~ Jeanne Murray Walker, The Geography of Memory, Field Note 2
The grandgirl’s stashed them in a corner of the small curio cabinet,
and I inhale the fragrance that wafts
from the pile of perfume samples.
Dry, white squares peek out of ripped pockets.
Grace has saved my mother’s scents.
I wonder if Sissy kept the Chanel #5 we tucked in a drawer
at the nursing home and then the hospice house.
Just before Christmas, I buy myself a little Modern Muse so I
can snag a gift box of skin care and makeup for my daughter.
When I get home, I spritz some on my wrist and sniff.
Something about it reminds me of my own grandmother,
and suddenly I’m standing next to a sputtering radiator
in the dining room of that little house on Trowbridge Street.
Then I’m in the kitchen where she’s pouring warm oil in my ear.
I’m squirming, and she’s pressing me closer to her breast
while she fusses at me.
But when she lets go, she notes the deep imprint of buttons on my cheek,
so she slips me a piece of candy.
I’m rummaging through the bathroom closet.
I’m pretty sure I’ve got an old bottle of White Shoulders
in here somewhere.
I saved it because it whispers wedding and early married moments.
Memories leap-frog, and now I’m imagining the smells of
sawdust and cigarette smoke and creosote
and pine trees and forest decay.
Images play hide and seek in the ripped pockets of my mind,
and I realize it’s the scents that call me to my senses.
And today I’m wearing Amazing Grace.
What memories do different scents stimulate for you?
I’m joining The High Calling’s Book Club as we read through The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s by Jeanne Murray Walker. I’m a bit behind, but I’m savoring each page. It’s powerful and poignant, humorous and hopeful read.
Isn’t it amazing how memory is stirred by the sense of smell this way? Such tender thoughts, Sandy. Isn’t this book something? Beauty and pain intermingle and just open me up in the strangest ways. I’m glad you’re reading along…
White Shoulders, yes
one could get lost here
Janet Macy says
Beautiful. Thanks for these words.
When I spent the 7 weeks last fall in upstate NY taking care of my parents, I noticed the smells and wondered how long I would have the opportunity to smell them.
My parents are 91 & 92. I felt like I needed to inhale to conserve my memory. Both of them are slipping slowly into dementia. But they can still carry on conversations and joke and laugh.
After my 15 y/o son died, I noticed how a specific scent can bring me up short – like running into a brick wall – and all those memories just come pouring over me.
I just downloaded the “Geography of Memory”. Is it too late to go over to the High Calling’s Book Club and take part?
Every time I smell new lumber I’m a little girl again and my Dad is working on a project. I have the old hutch he made when I was a little girl in my kitchen.
Remember when I used my Jergens (cherry) lotion at Laity. You said it brought back memories for you. It always makes me think of my own Mom.
This is so beautifully written dear friend. I am so excited to see where this precious gift takes you.
Angel @ Finding The Inspiring says
The smell of coffee = my mother. I wrote a post about that once called the Scent of Content. How it kept the memory of her with me now that she’s gone.
I also get that with gardenia, her favorite flower and, yes, channel #5, her favorite perfume.
Thank you, Sandra, for writing these beautiful words that have caused me to remember again.
I always enjoy reading your words …scents…hmm, I will have to think about that one…I know there are certain foods, like turkey bacon that make think of my husband, because he sometimes will cook it on Saturday morning….thinking of you fondly 🙂
Oh my. The smell of cheap vanilla candles and cigarette smoke take me back to my mother instantly. Not all that glamorous but then again, neither was she.
Martha Orlando says
Our sense of smell is the most powerful one which evokes memories. You have described those sensations so beautifully here, Sandy!