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Sunday, January 29, 2006

How Appropriate that Streisand Sang about Memories


I took a class in the 80s about learning styles. According to its theory, you could supposedly assess a person's dominant learning mode by asking him to recall a childhood memory and observe his eye movement: if the individual looked upward to remember, he was a visual learner; if he looked to either side, he was an auditory learner; and, if he looked down, a kinesthetic-tactual or "hands-on" learner. It's a fun little experiment that doesn't really prove much.

One thing I know for certain, human beings are powerful olfactory, or smell, recallers. We are greatly and profoundly moved to memory by smells. There is a compendium of research to back this up, but I don't need it. I live it.

One whiff of Final Net hairspray and I'm back in 1977. You see, I got my waist-length hair cut in the "Farrah Fawcett" style, all feathered and layered. In order to maintain those perfectly symmetrical wings, I used a ton of the stuff every Friday and Saturday night before hitting the disco. No way a chick could line dance and hustle and try Stayin' Alive and still look good without half a bottle of good old Final Net to lacquer down the 'do.

I absolutely cannot abide any candy or drink that is grape flavored. Why? Blame it on Dimetapp. When my eldest son was in his childhood, he practically lived on the stuff. He never just got a cold; he always got an ear infection with it, and that meant reducing the congestive fluid. Enter Dimetapp, the grape flavored decongestant. Every time I smell artificial grape flavoring, I am vaulted back to sleepless nights, trips to the pediatrician's office where there is always a 45 minute wait in a cramped waiting room full of snuffly kids, and that jittery feeling of wondering whether or not your kid will end up with a worse illness than what he was there for in the first place.

Hot tea with lemon = illness. At least it does for me. When I was a kid, I got it all. Scarlet fever, tonsillitis, German measles, mono, strep a million times, a kazillion chesty colds, chicken pox. At the forefront of all my mom's curative arsenals was hot tea with lemon. Now just the smell of it makes me feel achy and sick. A general malaise blankets my body almost immediately. I won't allow anyone in my house to prepare it. Earl Grey comes close to triggering the response. Dangerously.

I have the usual pleasant aromatic associations that most people do. The Christmassy smells of cinnamon and pine, Thanksgiving's turkey and pumpkin pie, the powdery pleasance of drowsy babies. Walking into a chocolatier gives me warm memories of my aunt and uncle's candy shop where I used to hang out with a favorite cousin and pick chocolatey drips off of the enrober. But the so-called "new car smell" that automobile fanciers rave about eludes me. I just don't get it. I guess it's because I just see cars as a necessity--I drive a 1996 Ford and hope to for a long, long time.

My husband doesn't wear any cologne or aftershave. He never did. Once, I bought him some that I really liked. It was Aramis. I still really like the smell of that stuff. He never wears it, but he smells just fine without it.

He used to use Flex shampoo, and when I smell it, I remember him with his long, long hair burnished gold in streaks by hours of sunny construction work. It was beautiful and wild and I used to look at it spread across his pillow when he slept. When he got "a real job" he had to cut it all off. I was so sad, and still am. I saved it in a plastic bag in my drawer and in my memory, and in every bottle of Flex shampoo.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous11:21 PM

    This is the reason I adore Demeter perfumes. Though they seem to be going out of business. They have smells like "gin and tonic" and "laundromat" as well as many other weird smells. "Funeral Parlor" well I never bought that one. I did buy "Dirt" though. Surprisingly, it did not smell bad. My sister told me that is because most people equate dirt with pooh. And clean dirt smells more of clay and earth. I love that scent, but as usual, I cannot find it anymore! Urg.

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