One thing that I have always found fascinating is the ability smell has of transporting a person back to a more innocent, memory-filled time in their life, whether wanted or not. Someone once told me this is because the memory center of the brain is very near the smell center. It makes complete sense. I just wish being in public didn’t sometimes catch me so off-gaurd. I am very smell oriented. I don’t know if I value memories more if I can remember a scent from that moment in time, but there are so many smells I associate to particular life events and it can be terrifying sometimes where my mind drifts off to when certain smells invade my thoughts.
For instance, this last week I was on vacation. I was walking around the resort enjoying myself when a woman with strong perfume walked by and I was transported back to a more innocent youth, before the ghosts began digging graveyards in my soul. Her perfume reminded me of my mother. My dad had a few favorite scents he loved, one of them being Cinnabar, and each year when she was close to running out my dad would make a special trip to the store and surprise her with a new bottle. He would have it all beautifully wrapped and put it strategically on her bedroom dresser or out on the kitchen counter with a pretty note, and she’d be all glowing and beautiful when she discovered it. And then my mother would proudly wear it around the house, or all snuggled up in bed waiting for my father to arrive home from his late-night work shifts. She loved the way he looked at her, with that beautiful smell surrounding her like a goddess. I remember my father coming home from work, their eyes glistening in excitement to see each other. When they’d kiss in front of my brother and I, we’d tell them to go do that somewhere else. Then they would giggle and my mom would peck him on the lips and walk to the kitchen like God had blessed her with the best prize she could have ever hoped for.
Their love was different in my eyes then. They are still together after all of these years, thank goodness, but I think a child’s view of their parent’s love is so innocent in the beginning. Before the world began showing it’s darker colors, I viewed my parent’s marriage through the lens of a fairy-tale. But I’ll never forget the night my dad came home from work to see my mom all proud to be his wife, gloating in her Cinnabar scent, and he told her to stop wearing that perfume. It hurt his nose. He claimed he couldn’t breathe. She tried wearing a few of his other favorites, but it wasn’t the same after that. It’s not that he meant to hurt her, but things changed. Maybe that’s when I began seeing marriage differently. It’s not that they ever stopped loving each other, definitely not that, but I began to understand that long-term relationships begin to have a large amount of commitment mixed in with that sensation of bubbling love. Sometimes the proportion of love is smaller than the commitment, knowing the need to cling together through the storm or risk losing someone they still dream about spending the rest of their life with. Other times the love is so overwhelming, commitment is not even a worry, because they can’t stop smiling. Childhood love is so innocent, until the cracks begin to show.
Another scent-memory I always have is in regards to shampoos and shower gels. Growing up, the most relaxing times of my life were at my grandma’s house. As a kid, every summer I was lucky enough to have a trip carved out to see my family. My parents and my brother and I lived three hours away from my dad’s family, so when they would take the time to drive my brother and I out to grandma’s house, and let us stay there for a week or two, we were ecstatic. Grandma would let our brains rot in front of Cartoon Network (before it was horrible, stupid TV), she always made the best sandwiches with bologna and pickles and mustard, and after a long day of playing in the backyard crick, she’d fill up a delightful smelling bubble bath and let us soak. Then she’d wrap us up in a blanket, and carry us to our rooms to change. We’d get cereal before bed and she’d make sure we were nice and warm before tucking us in. Sometimes, I wish childhood didn’t always feel like we’re rushing it. These days, a five year old is lucky to feel like a kid anymore. Too many people are concerned with makeup and high heels and short skirts to worry if their little girl might feel the need to look like Barbie or if she can enjoy her youth playing with the dirt in the backyard without being considered a lesbian. What happened to people valuing childhood? I wish I could get those moments back a few times a year. No worries.
It’s the bad memories that come with smell that I can’t stand. The ones that hit you in public and you instantly wish you could hide and cry, because remembering why it happened makes you regret all sorts of things in your life. It’s like a ticking time bomb. It’s hardest when someone walks by wafting his cologne because yes, he did smell so good, but nothing he did brings me smiles anymore. I wonder what ever made me think he could ever be good for me. That’s right, it was desperation. I’m so glad I gave up his tricks and found my husband. That cologne makes me think of how worthless I thought myself to be back in the day, how many times I was so close to giving up my values so I could string my bones along a man to feel his heartbeat. The only thing that saved me from complete destruction, was meeting my husband.
And now we’ve come full circle. Love and smells and redemption. I’m sorry this post isn’t as organized. My mind hasn’t been making sense of anything lately. It feels like bees are bouncing around in my brain, and I can’t formulate any complete thought long enough to flesh it out into something beautiful. Please, don’t judge me to harshly. Sharing this is so personal. I’m surprised with the things I’ve been sharing lately. But please do comment.