Sensory Suggestions


I find it fascinating that my feeble brain often cannot remember what I was just headed to the fridge for, but it can be jolted back 40 years to an exact experience by a simple smell or song. What is it about aromas and songs that trigger memories in us?

I have some hand soap that is the same fragrance I used two years ago after having had surgery. Every time I wash my hands with it, it still throws me back into the experience of wound care, and frequent hand washing. When it rains, like it is doing today, and I smell the earthy, wet smell, I am still a kid playing in the puddles after a good rain. Someone’s cologne will take me back to a first kiss in my teen years.

As I listen to the “oldies” on Pandora, I am repeatedly transported to various times in my life. A college party…a first listen to an album on my dorm room stereo…driving around in a convertible with friends on a summer day with the radio blaring. I still get a surge of energy when I hear the song I tried out for the Pom Pom Squad to…Along Comes Mary. I didn’t make the squad, but it was huge for me to even have tried out, and I so wanted it! The Youngbloods Get Together, the first song I formally learned on the guitar. The pastel, gingham checked, seersucker dresses we made for our junior high choir concert to sing The Candy Man, holding big spiral suckers.

So, why is it that we can remember all of these smells and songs, and what was happening in conjunction with them, but not the mundane things we are always asking our brains to recall? Maybe I need to devise a plan to associate an aroma or tune with my to-do list, so I won’t forget anything. Or do you think in 40 years I’ll still remember what song was playing when I remembered to get the meat out of the freezer that one day?


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