Friday, March 10, 2006

Common scents

I have always had an outrageously sensitive sense of smell. I'm not sure why, but things that other people dismiss as aroma-free or scent-neutral have strong odors to my nose. And of all the senses, smell is the one that can most easily trigger memories for me. Seeing a place I've been before, hearing a song that reminds me of a time in my life - they certainly bring back reminiscent feelings. But the scent of a thing or a place or a person - a scent can transport me back in time in an instant. It's not just a memory; for that instant, it is a reality - one whiff, and I am momentarily sitting on my grandmother's couch, or walking to the pencil sharpener in my third-grade classroom, or standing on the stage of the high school auditorium, or kissing a cute young man in college.

My husband thinks I'm a little kooky, but he's gotten used to my overactive olfactory sensitivities and my proclivity to go through life sniffing things (though to be honest, the extremely overactive sense of smell I experienced in pregnancy was almost enough to send us both over the edge.) For the most part, though, he complies with my requests to smell things for me, and indulges my lengthy sniffs in the crook of his neck.

I have a theory that in a blind test in which Bud was presented to me at random times throughout the day I would be able to give an accurate report on what he'd been doing just by smelling his hair. In the morning, I'd know if he'd been sleeping in his own bed or ours, and if he'd been in ours I'd know if he'd been sleeping closer to his Dad or to me. Later in the day, I'd know if he'd been playing outdoors or in. I'd know if he'd been to school (and would be able to tell if he'd been at Kindergarten or if he's been visiting his old preschool, as they create entirely different hair smells.) If he'd been in Kindergarten, I'd know by the smell of his hair if he'd had a fairly independent day or if he'd been clinging a lot to Mrs. H. And on and on and on.

Today was Hibernation Day at Kindergarten: everyone wore their pajamas and got to bring a stuffed friend along for the day. Bud was absolutely delighted to wear his jammies to school and to bring in Cat in the Hat, and he was full of energy at the end of the school day. He was chattering non-stop as we unpacked his school bag, but stopped in mid-thought as he pulled out Cat in the Hat, then plunged his nose into Cat's belly.

"Mama!" he squealed with glee, "Cat in the Hat smells Kindergarten!"

I plunged my own nose in. "He sure does, Bud!" I agreed. "He smells EXACTLY Kindergarten!"

That's my boy!

I'm just not sure how to break it to my husband.


Wade Rankin said...

I'm thinking of suggesting Hibernation Day for the office.

kristina said...

You'll have to have your husband sniff it out.

Funny but I just posted about how understanding Charlie requires looking very carefully. Sensitively.

Synesthia runs rampant!

Eileen said...

I am a smeller too. I can relate to how different smells bring me right back to my childhood. I can also tell where my boys have been by the smell of their hair. I can tell if Andrew's school aide was absent because of the smell of a strange substitute aide smell on him.

Anonymous said...

I can relate the the relationship between smells and memories. The strongest for me is that smell of paste immediately sends me back 35 years to a particular hallway and stairwell in elementary school. Not the art room, but the hallway and stairwell!

Susan Senator said...

Makes perfect scents to me! I love smelling my boys although it is more difficult as they are 16, 14 and nearly 8. And the smells sure change!