Smelling is one of the most underrated of the five senses, but it is truly at the top of my list. It is a tree star, to be sure, because in addition to the wonderful aromas that I get to enjoy, it gives me the gift of memories.
I did a little research to find that the olfactory nerve is located very close to the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion . It is also very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory. Therefore, the actual ability to smell is highly linked to memory. Research has shown that when areas of the brain connected to memory are damaged, the ability to identify smells is actually impaired. Isn’t that cool!
All medical science aside, I love smells….and I love it when they deliver me a memory with just one mere whiff. There are a bouquet of aromas that transport me happily back in time.
The smell of the spice, Cardamom takes me all the way back to my early childhood. It takes me to Elsie’s kitchen. She was our wonderful back door neighbor as a child. Elsie was from Estonia and spoke with a lovely Slavic accent. Her face and her voice always had a smile. Sometimes she would let me help her cook in her wonderful steamy kitchen. It always smelled of cardamom because of a yummy type of Estonian bread she made. I can taste it even as I think of it. That smell places me on a kitchen stool next to her stove…a very safe and happy place to be.
The cloying smell of honeysuckle takes me back to my grandparent’s house in Virginia. It was there I learned to identify this plant and pull the stems out and suck out the honey juice left behind. It was an unexpected little treat that left me feeling captivated by something so simple growing in my own backyard. I must admit I snacked on them often.
The smell of freshly cut grass always always always takes me back to my summers as a child living in southwest Florida. Even though I’ve had a lifetime of grass cutting smells, for some reason my brain always takes me back there. It encompasses the thoughts of how wonderful it felt to have summer all in front of me. I would beg my stepfather to let me cut the grass but he never would because it was too dangerous. To this day I think that I love cutting the grass because it was such a forbidden fruit.
The combined smells of oil of wintergreen and chlorine conspire in my head to take me back to the Lakeside High School Gym. Many hours of my life were spent in that rival high school. It was the only high school in the area with a pool, so I spent thousands of hours of my life swimming laps or going to swim meets. My fellow swim mates and I would play cards, laugh and talk, or take cat naps as we waited for our events to be called in the pool below. The swimmers keeping their muscles warm with wintergreen mingle in my head with the strong scent of chlorine wafting up from the pool below.
The rather acrid smell of sweat and athletic tape take me back to the Briarcliff High School boy’s locker room. It wasn’t really a bad smell, but a very distinctive one to be sure. In my cheerleading days, we would sneak down there when it was empty, and decorate with signs and streamers and notes for the football team to find before the big game. If you dropped me blindfolded there today, I could most definitely tell you where I was.
The fresh smell of baking bread always takes me back to my college years at the University of Georgia. In those days, Benson’s Bakery would make bread at a specified time each day and the entire downtown area would be saturated with the delicious aroma. I would salivate just walking around. I wish they still did that because it was oh, so, wonderful! I think maybe the Classic Center now stands where it used to be, but oh my goodness…it was a smell to die for.
The smell of cinnamon brings every Christmas memory rushing back simultaneously …making cinnamon ornaments, decorating with cinnamon brooms, and baking with cinnamon. Any thought of Christmas brings a smile to my face and thankfulness to my heart and one little smell can do that. One of my son’s friends told me one day that the smell of cinnamon always reminded her of our house. I was so happy about that….
And last but not least, the smell of a brand new baby, still, after 33 years today takes me back to my own young babies. A life straight from heaven smells …so sweet…so fresh…so wonderful. It reminds me all over again how thankful I was to experience that privilege…to be a bystander to one of God’s greatest miracles. Oh…sigh…how I miss that smell!
All of these and more are just gifts…ways to relive some treasures of our life. I am so thankful that God made us the way that He did. Thank you Father for my gift of smell.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.