I’m around 8 or 9 years old, I’m sitting in the front room of our house on 18th street, Nick at Nite is playing old re-runs of The Lucy Show. Our dog, Benji, is curled up at the end of the couch. We have our sleeping bags laid out on the floor in anticipation of a ‘front room camp out’. There is nothing particularly special about this night or any other nights like this in my memory. They are memorably uneventful and my childhood is filled with many good ones like this. Anytime I smell a window unit air conditioner, I am instantly transported back to this time in my life. Sometimes I’ll just close my eyes and take the scent in, letting it draw me back into the past. I love the smell.
I’m around 8 or 9 years old, I’m at school and my anxiety is about to make me sick. I feel out of place, awkward, and like everyone is staring at me or making fun of me. I try to go to the nurse, but she knows me and sees through my faking. I go to the counselor and she calms me the best she can. When I come back, it is lunch time and my anxiety starts anew. The smell of food cooking inside of a school building takes me back to that terrible time. Working in a school and being front and center with that smell almost daily has been a test of my anxiety. Sometimes the smell will hit me just right and all of the sudden I am that anxious, fearful elementary kid again. I have to take a minute to center myself and remind myself that that is not who I am anymore. It’s a hard smell to be around.
I’m always amazed at how a certain smell can take you to a certain moment in time. I could list off a dozen different smells that remind me of a dozen different things. Even more so than music for me, smell is what takes me back. I wonder what smells my own kids are going to associate with their childhood’s good and bad memories? What will they smell as adults that will take them back? The funny thing about memories is that you don’t know you are making them at the time they happen. Pardon me while I go relive summers with my grandma as I smell this waft of damp air blow through.