Monday, January 26, 2009

Monday Memories--The Best Smell in the World is . . .

Today I went to Wal-Mart to get cleanser, bleach and soap. As the cashier rang up my items she picked up a can of Comet cleanser and said, “I love the smell of this.” I asked her if that was what her mom used when she was growing up and she said it was. Then she continued, “She was a clean freak and used lots of bleach, too. I like the smell of bleach as well.”

We used Ajax growing up, so Comet doesn’t trigger anything for me, but her comment made me think of childhood smells and the memories linked to them:

Pink gum erasers—my friend, Anita, had pink gummy erasers and I loved smelling them. Whenever I smell one, still, I think of Anita and our inseparable grade school and high school friendship.

Floor wax—the last thing we did when we cleaned house was to wax the floor. We had to stay off of it for 20-30 minutes until it dried, so floor wax says “the work is finally done.” Definitely a good smell. Or it reminds me of the first day of school after a long break when the janitor had waxed all the wood floors in the building

Novocaine—reminds me of the dentist. The dentist reminds me of cavities which reminds me of milkshakes. Pavlov’s theory—novocaine = food


Plastic—My doll, Judy

Green Palmolive dish soap—washing steers at the fair for 4-H. Before we discovered the cattle shampoo of Orvus, it was us, the steers and a bottle of dish soap.




White Shoulders perfume—Grandma Julia’s red bathroom that always had a fancy box of scented powder with a fluffy applicator



All these things conjure a memory for me. How about for you? What smells trigger memories for you? Did you know these interesting facts about smells?

1. Humans are able to distinguish over 10,000 scents.

2. Each person (except identical twins) has his or her individual smell.

3. One in 1,000 people are insensitive to the smell of skunks.

4. Smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than taste.

5. Ninety percent of what is perceived as taste is actually smell.

6. Ninety percent of the women who were tested identified their newborns by smell after being exposed to them for only 10 min-1 hour. All of the women recognized their babies' smell after they had been exposed longer than 1 hour.

7. By as early as 3 days a baby can discriminate between his own breast-feeding mother and another lactating mother.

8. Women, particularly women of reproductive age, have a more acute sense of smell than men.

9. Dogs, horses, and women can detect the "scent of fear." (Female subjects wore underarm pads while watching a scary movie or a neutral movie. The pads were presented to a panel of women who were able to discriminate between "fear" and "non-fear" sweat pads. )

10. We tend to prefer the smell of people who have different smells to our own and tend to be repelled by people whose smell is similar to our own.

11. A Chicago lab found that the women in their study rated human odor more pleasant than common household odors.

12. Around $24 billion is spent annually on scented products in the US.

13. People are very sensitive to the smell of green pepper. It can be detected when it is mixed with air at only 0.5 parts per trillion.

(This information was compiled by Tim Jacob jacob@cardiff.ac.uk)



I’d love to hear about a smell and memory of yours in the comments.

12 comments:

Barb said...

I grew up in a comet house, also.
I've thought about your milkshake-following-the-dentist tradition, and if you had a filling of course you got a milkshake, because with a numbed face you can't chew a hamburger without chewing your cheek.

Noriko Anderson said...

i think everyone can agree that smells of the holidays trigger good memories... pine, cinnamon, pumpkin, etc... but i love when smells trigger memories of people... hugo boss cologne=morgan heaps, mothballs=grandpa, vinegar+rice=grandma, and chocolate chip cookies=shelley nelson (on more than one occasion after walking home from the bus with becky, i was welcomed in for after-school snacks), roasts=sunday dinner... it goes on and on

Christy said...

The smell of plaster reminds me of the old family farmhouse, which is nothing out of the ordinary except that I smell it sometimes when I am nowhere near plaster.

tina said...

I am pretty sensitive to cigarette smoke and can tell if a used car, although been detailed and sparkling on the car lot, has been smoked in or not. Not a fun one, I guess.

When our pillows get mixed up, Gunnar can tell the difference between mine and my husband's. One day he declared he likes my smell and can tell the difference on the pillows. Neither of us where perfume or colonge, so it's pretty good smellin'!

Kim Sue said...

Prell shampoo = summer camp

I smell Prell and it takes me back to being 12, standing in the shower stall at summer camp. I don't know if it was because it was popular in the early 80's or because it was cheap but the smell is definitely tied to those memories.

Hannah said...

Strawberry scented V05 shampoo reminds me of my Grandma A's and her pink guest bathroom

Latex paint reminds me of my dad

Chocolate pretzels remind me of the first summer Linc and I were dating

Imitation butter flavor reminds me of pulling taffy with my Grandma E

Bananas and cinnamon remind me of my little sister

SO many more. I remember scents so well. This was fun!

Miller Family said...

Oh this is so true. We used Comet at our house and my Grandma loved White Shoulders. My Grandpa would always buy that for her on her birthday.

Coppertone Suntan Lotion is my favorite childhood smell because it reminds me of the fun times at Lake Havasu growing up and the awesome 4th of July's spent there on the beach.

Julie said...

There are certain fall smelling candles that smell like the Piper Barn Craft Show to me. Also, when I make apple crisp it triggers the same memories of feeding people in the barn while they shop! Polo cologne makes me think of a guy I dated in High School. Rose soap smells like my great-grandmother's bathroom and it makes me think of old ladies.

Elizabeth said...

Comet house for me too.
The smell of gasoline is a comforting childhood smell for me as well. I have no idea why.

carlo said...

oh my-- yes. comet! and murphy's oil soap, too.

i love that smells can trigger the good memories. there is a scent, i can't explain it, but i smell it often at the girls school and it takes me right back to my old school dsys.

Carolyn said...

Favorite childhood smell:Rubber cement. I used to sit by the rubber cement in elementary school and I used to sneak smells of it. Maybe that's why I'm missing a few brain cells?
Also, Grandma Jackson's house had a very distinct smell. I always loved that smell. I have a pillow from there and I can still smell that wonderful smell on it.

Becky said...

#9 is so interesting! But #10 was a little disturbing to me...I am totally repulsed by the smell of this one lady who always smells like she needs to use deodorant..please tell me I am not repulsed because I smell like that too! :)

The smell of old cars (dust, grease, metal) brings back fond memories of sitting in my grandpa's auto body shop watching him tinker.

The smell of sunscreen is one of my favorites and makes me think of happy summers, both as a child and now with my kids (swim lessons, playing in the sprinklers, etc.)

The smell of the beach reminds me of living in Mexico with Jeff...one of my favorite smells

Citrus makes me think of my grandparents who always let us pick huge lemons and oranges and tangerines off their trees.

So many more...too many to write :)