Smelling Spring

Like most people, smells and memories are very much intertwined in my life. For me, candle smoke smells like birthdays. Lavender makes me think of my mom. Deeply breathing in the scent of a well-loved baseball glove makes me think of my dad. And the smell of garlic and onions simmering in olive oil makes me think of my love.

My childhood smelled like wild onions pulled from grass and stored in Mason jars—food for my long, make-believe journeys at sea.

College smelled like Febreze.

Perfumes evoke a strong sense of memory in me. Tribe smells like junior high. Jessica McClintock’s perfume smells like my junior prom. CK One reminds me of an evening at a drive-in. Ralph Lauren’s Romance smells like what I thought was a grown-up me.

New school supplies have a memory smell. Christmas trees have a memory smell, although I swear it used to be stronger. The scent of the ocean before you can see it has a memory smell, too.

This weekend we opened our windows and I smelled spring. The scent of spring, or, more specifically, the scent of the promise of spring always has had a distinct smell to me. But this year it was interlaced with the memory smell of new life—new life much bigger and far more impacting than buds and seeds. Smelling my house this weekend I was immediately reminded of my first few weeks with Sophie. For that’s how our house smelled when we introduced her to it. That’s how our house smelled when I became undone with overwhelming love, utter exhaustion and this new person who sort of looked like me.

I hope I can give her good memory smells. I’m sure she already has some, tucked away in her limbic system. I wonder what they are and what they will be.

“For the sense of smell, almost more than any other, has the power to recall memories and it is a pity that we use it so little.” —Rachel Carson