I wrote a really funny piece yesterday called Making Scents of the Past. A different one. O boy, sometimes I just crack myself up. But by the time I went to bed I was pretty well sobered. There’s a big difference between dredging up records of the already-deceased and chasing memories of the still-living.
I’ve talked to relatives who don’t want to remember. It was a crappy time it’s over thank god amen. Whatever the details were I’ll never know. There’s a good reason we were designed to live in only one moment at a time. If we didn’t we’d all be nut-cases.
I wrote previously about receiving a photograph of a place I’d last visited at the age of 8. I was instantly transported to two things: the feeling of myself running down the sidewalk and the musty scent of my Uncle Henry’s house. For awhile I was IN Sandusky. The most amazing part was that I could smell Sandusky. I could smell everything including Lake Erie. And I could see things around me as clear as day.
I haven’t been able to duplicate the experience since then because my conscious mind gets in the way. But the first time, when I wasn’t expecting it, the trigger just walked right in and took me there.
Lately, I’ve been pondering the fact that the unraveling of my earliest memories has been due to a scent I remember. They say our conscious memory starts at around age 6, but I can go back almost to the womb on a whiff of wood putty. My father had a paint and wallpaper business when I was a baby.
Our old family homestead was built 175 years ago. My father took me there when I was 6. I remember some things about it, but not enough. The house is still sitting there on the original property with all of its olfactory delights, I bet. I’m not going all the way to Ohio to find out what but if someone would like to send me a rag soaked in the local air or an aerosol can of pressurized …
It’s a well known fact that scent is our most powerful memory trigger. So, I was thinking. If we could figure out a way to capture local scents in hermetically sealed containers, we could start an online Scent Bank and do scent exchanges. Premium members could request specific houses or GPS locations.
A scent ‘search’ could only be done on a voluntary basis, of course. I mean, you couldn’t go into a hospital to visit your great-grandaunt who’s just about to cross over and take 90 years of memories with her, spritz some Tallahassee air on her wrist real quick and turn on the tape-recorder. I mean, you wouldn’t, would you? (Just how obsessed are you?)