Friday, April 29, 2016

THE POWER of SMELL... My first memory...1936 (?)

I have tried very hard to recall my early days but I honestly don't know what I actually can remember as opposed to those things that were retold so many times in my family that they seem to be MY memories. I am not able to go back much further than when I was 6 or 7 years old. The years before that seem to be lost to me...except for this amazing experience.

I have heard that the primary sense is that of smell...and I can attest to that. When I was very young my family and I went to Brattleboro, Vt. to visit my mother's family. I know this is true because we have pictures to prove it and it is also recorded in my Aunt Emma's diaries. I must have been 3 or 4 at the time and I have no conscious memory of that visit.

HOWEVER...many years later I became aware of a very strange seemed to be a combination of three odors...the pungent smell of new sawn lumber, the slightly gamey smell of lamb being roasted in the oven and the almost sickly sweet smell of maple syrup bubbling on the stove. I was immediately transported to the kitchen of my grandparents in Brattleboro. The sensation was so strong that I felt like I could reach out and touch them...and I actually remembered being there. It was a swift but powerful memory and then it receded almost as quickly as it came..

The interesting thing is that Grandpa was a carpenter and had a shop and wood lathe in a large room off of the kitchen. They also had a "sugaring-off" business and would tap the maple trees and boil the sap into syrup on the wood stove in the kitchen.. The smell of lamb being roasted?? Perhaps that was the special meal being prepared for our visit.

Whatever it was, I have only smelled that combination two times in my 83 years and each time it has pulled me back to that warm and loving kitchen of my childhood.


Blogger Marie Smith said...

Such a wonderful memory, Ginnie. Amazing how smells triggered it! Great post.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Anvilcloud said...

The smell of woodworking with the saddest flying always takes Sue back to her dad.

5:58 PM  
Blogger Arkansas Patti said...

That is such a unique combination of smells. I can see why it stuck in you head. How nice to have it transport you back to a pleasant time.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Like yourself, Ginnie, I also have trouble remembering events in my early childhood. Even when viewing home movies taken by my late father, I find that my memory is just not there. That said, it was nice that you recalled the memories of your grandparents.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a lovely memory. I don't think I have many if any smell memories. However I do have other early childhood memories, many of them. They sometimes come and go quickly. I should carry a notebook and right them down I suppose. Wonderful you could remember your smell memory.

4:56 PM  
Blogger possum said...

My grandmother (who raised me) was big into canning. I remember the smells in the kitchen of tomatoes being canned, as the strongest smell... but the canning of peaches, making jams and jellies, were my favorites.
Another interesting but very local smell - my aunt baking Haymen potatoes, a local whitish sweet potato. I would come in the house and think she was baking a cake, but no, it was just Haymens for dinner. Oh well.

Other early childhood smells I remember - the smell of an Easter basket... the electrical smell of Grandpop's train when something got on the track, and, read for this? How some daisies smelled like my neighbor's donkey. Clean donkeys do not smell bad!

5:01 AM  
Blogger joared said...

Fascinating to read about your earliest memory being prompted by smell as that was my experience, too. I was able to verify with my mother the memories associated with the smell I remembered. If you're interested, I wrote about my experience March 30, 2007, "Assaults of Sensory Memory" in my blog archives. The post after that was about smell, too, but quite different -- related to TV in early sixties you'll likely recall.

1:50 AM  

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