By Judy Reiss
I had the strangest experience the other day, which made me realize that your sense of smell is probably the most important sense we have. Although it sounds silly, here is what happened. I was in an elevator and all of a sudden I got the whiff of the smell of what I think was Brylcreem and Tums. And what it brought back to me was my Grandfather Ayers, who always used Brylcreem to slick back his hair and of course always had at least one Tums in his mouth. Now it might sound crazy now but that smell shocked me so much that I had to look around to see if my grandfather was there. Of course, I knew it couldn’t have really been him because he has been gone for at least 70 years. And how could I actually have been so taken aback that this smell, after at least 70 years, still brought him back so clearly?
So, what do you think? I know that I am right, but I want to know what you think. Of all our senses which includes hearing, taste and of course smell, which do you think is the most interesting and we use the most? Think about it. You can hear all sorts of things which will remind you of something from your past. But I am not sure how important that sound really is. I think that if you hear something that reminds you of something you have heard before, it is probably true. But it also is a sound that you have heard lots of times before. The sound of a bell might remind you of elementary school but it also is a sound that you have heard lots of times at various other times and places. So school is just one of many sounds in your memory.
I am not sure about taste at all. I can’t think of one thing that tastes either good or bad that actually brings back a memory. Maybe a wonderful ice cream cone of a wonderful flavor will bring back a memory of a specific event from your childhood. For me, I can’t remember any specific ice cream flavor but I do remember a specific birthday party where Dixie Cup vanilla and chocolate ice cream was served and as an adult I have had a similar Dixie Cup and found it did bring me back. Of course, back then no one had ice cream on a regular basis and a Dixie Cup was a very special treat. When I had one as an adult it just wasn’t the same! It did remind me of that birthday party but just not the same.
Now when I think of smell, I can think of lots of times that I have smelled something that actually brought back lots of special memories. Not every memory is one that is wonderful, some were just memories of events that were just part of my growing up experience. Believe it or not when I was growing up I was lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents. And each set lived in their own house. And each house smelled entirely different. One grandmother was not just a good cook, she was also a baker who baked almost every day. So, of course, her house smelled like delicious produce. The other set was quite a bit younger and as I remember, both of them smoked. So their house smelled like smoke and also of fresh flowers. And I found both homes a warm and happy place to go. And today? Well, I know that I have been in many places that smelled like these terrific places as a young girl growing up. And every time I have smelled the smells of my childhood, I have been able to take myself back to what was a very happy time for me.
I can taste a cookie or even a piece of plum pudding that my grandmother baked and find it wonderful. But it doesn’t actually take me back to her kitchen the way a smell of them baking would do.
Strange as it sounds, I spent some time in a hospital once and when I awoke, before I opened my eyes, I smelled the smells of my Nana’s house and was shocked when I opened my eyes and couldn’t see or hear the trains that always went by near her backyard. Can you imagine such a distinct smell and that it would actually bring back such a memory after that many years?
So for me the answer is smell is the most important sense. And I love the opportunity to smell a happy part of my childhood. Maybe I am just getting so old that these senses are actually part of me. What about you? Do you have the wonderful opportunity to revisit your growing up when a small whiff of something just crosses your face and your nose? How lucky are we to have the wonderful sense of smell! A lot more fun than the other senses or none at all.
In last week’s column, Central Vermont Home Health & Hospice was mistakenly referred to as Washington County Home Health and the Washington County Visiting Nurses. We’re sorry for any confusion that might have caused.