Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Smells and other memories.....

Tonight I was reading a blog in which the writer talks about the sense of smell and how evocative it is. He brought to mind an aroma which even after many years, is still so strong in my memory that I can conjure it at will. As a college student, I was a participant in a multi-college art department trip to New York, to visit museums. While on the train going to NY, I met a guy from another college, and during the course of that trip, we spent a lot of time together. I began to notice a distinctive smell emanating from his clothing. I asked him what deodorant he used, certain that was the cause, but he said he wore none and had never had to use either deodorant or antiperspirant. I didn't really believe him; the smell was wonderful, and elegant, and heady and I loved it, was drawn to it (and him) like a fly to honey.

I suppose that was my first intro to pheromones - before anyone knew that they existed or what they were. I can tell you that I would have gladly rested my nose in his armpit for years, and in fact, did almost that on the return train trip home. I don't think I ever saw him after that, but I certainly have a very strong memory of his amazing smell.

Other smells easily conjure up memories of our childhoods as well; frying chicken or newly blossomed spring flowers or a special perfume. When I was six, my Mom agreed to let me walk to the closest shopping area so that I could purchase her birthday present by myself. It was only 3-4 blocks away, and in those days, children could roam freely in my town, as long as they were careful in traffic. I felt so grown-up to have that freedom, and I started out full of confidence and spunk. I walked to the local drug store with a few coins in hand, and after many tryouts, I decided on a small bottle of "Evening in Paris" perfume. I paid for it and proudly walked out of the store carrying the small paper bag. I only had to cross 3 streets on my route, and at the first street I looked both ways and then again before I started across. But as I darted out, a car turned a corner and knocked me down and then as I fell, the back wheels ran over my hands. The small bag landed under my stomach and the bottle broke under me, the perfume saturating my dress at once.

As luck would have it, I was hit directly in front of a small hospital. A nearby policeman was summoned, and he took me to the hospital to be checked for injuries. I gave him my contact information and he called my Mom to the hospital. I was very, very brave as the nurses and doctor examined me. I babbled on about how I had walked to the store to buy a present and now it was broken and how was I ever going to get the money to buy another present for my Mom? I didn't even notice that my hands were skinned up and bleeding - all I cared about was that broken bottle of scent. I was stoic until my Mom walked into the exam room, and then I broke into racking sobs - as did she. Turns out I was fine; there were no broken bones and my hands were bandaged and healed quickly.
The smell of that perfume on my dress, so concentrated as to be overwhelming, made all of us (nurses, doctor, Mom and me) sick to our stomachs. To this day, I can remember it and I hope I never have to smell it again!


David Parsons WV said...

Evening in Paris was the favorite gift perfume from children to their mothers or teachers. It stinks to high heaven, but to a child it is the scent of love.
I also am very aware of how a scent can evoke a memory. The Sears near me smells like my Uncle Eddie's farm house in Roane County, WV. When I smell wood smoke I think of the time Granny told me how wood smoke made her think of burning mules in WV. Granny lived near the coal fields as a child and mules were used to haul the coal out of the ground. When the mules died they burned them. I still say, "I smell burning mules" when I smell wood smoke. No wonder everyone thinks I am crazy.

Pagan Sphinx said...

I'm still scratching my head about how your lovely smelling man could have such wonderful armpit scent...

How do I get my man some of that? ;-)