There are smells that we have from our past, which come up when we come across them. Like the smell of honeysuckles in spring, which reminds me of a backyard from my youth. Or, the smell of pizza while walking by an open door at a pizza shop and then quickly, I am reminded of a corner store. I’m reminded of a slice and a coke and the first time I heard The Grateful Dead on the jukebox.
Smells are enough to connect us to branches of memory. By the way, this is why I say that food is love. This is why the smell of a stew can remind me of family gatherings. This is why a smell from certain foods will connect me to an attachment of time. Or better yet, the taste of something that makes you close your eyes. The flavor of something as good as when Mom made it; it’s enough to place as a time when the chairs at our family dinners were less empty.
I laugh as I tell you this because I am thinking about the colognes of my youth. I remember the days when people wore Darkkar Noir.
I remember Cool Water. I remember Obsession and Eternity for Men. I remember Polo and Giorgio, Beverly Hills. I haven’t smelled any of these for a long, long time. But if I did, I am sure I could close my eyes and see the times from way back when.
Our senses can link us to the remnants of nostalgia. These are the sights, the sounds, smells and the touch that bring us back to a time when the life we live was less intense.
For example, I was thinking about the smell of hot dogs from the concession stand at baseball fields. I was a small boy in a baseball uniform that was simply too big for me. While the aromas from this time are rare to me now, a smell like this can remind me of my old friend Jeff who passed not too long ago.
I think of me and the boy I was, dressed in my little uniform. My baseball hat was like a huge bowl on my tiny head.
And I picture Jeff this way too, young again, and youthful as he was when I knew him first; happy, nothing to worry about, no battles or fights – just being a kid was enough at that time.
And this is good.
I say this because I don’t have a phone to reach Jeff where he is now. However, I do have a memory. I do have pictures in my mind and I do have the senses of my nostalgia to add depth to my memories.
Or what about the smell of fresh bagels in the morning? This is good.
I have a connection with this too. Perhaps I might not have told you but I worked at a bagel place. This was one of my first jobs, which was cool for a while. I cleaned up the mixer. I swept and mopped the floors. I’d show up to a scene where the girls who worked behind the counter were pretty. All of them were beautiful, popular – and perhaps I never had a chance with any of them and I’m sure this was true. Ah, but at least they were nice to me.
And there was a feeling with this too; there was this idea or this sort of connection to a bunch of people who worked an after school job.
There was something fun about this. There was something good about being a kid and having money in our pockets. There had to be something good about this because whenever I come across the smell of fresh bagels, my spirit feels a warm regard – and for the moment, I am linked back to a time in which I lived, a long, long time ago.
Sights, touch, smells and sounds do this for us. They give memory depth and texturize the past in such a way, in which we can feel it.
We can hear a song and close our eyes and somehow, we can travel back in time. We can see it; we can see the days of our positive past. And we can feel the stations of our mind engage.
Recently, I felt the warmth of the Florida sun on my face and I was instantly connected to the last time I was on 100 Lincoln Road in South Beach.
The area looks nothing like it did when I was a small boy. In fact, back then, we called this place Miami Beach and the building I mentioned was for senior citizens. But not anymore.
No, the entire area received an incredible face lift. The building itself looks almost the same but the price tags in the neighborhood are incredibly different.
I was there not too long ago. I could see the street and remember the intersection where the Denny’s used to be. I could almost remember the seats we sat in. I could almost feel the memories of my Grandmother and see her apartment as it was. God, her hands were so soft. Her skin was like a chenille blanket, delicate and comforting and gentle as gentle can be.
I can remember going to Denny’s for breakfast. I can remember my Grandmother’s friend Betty who used to take the bread from the table and the condiments too – and Betty put them in her purse to take back to her apartment for later.
I think I was somewhere around 11 when I saw them last. I know I was only 12 when my Grandmother passed away. I’ll be 50 this year and smells and sights and sounds are enough to keep me young – even if only for a minute.
There was a day when I was going through boxes of my old things. I found a bag from years ago. I opened the zipper and inside was a small prayer book that was given to me by my Father. This was The Old Man’s. The book was wrapped in a scarf that belonged to him.
This was a bag that had been zipped up and closed for years but the smell from The Old Man’s scarf was still on the fabric – and to me, a person who lost my Father at a young age, this was like a visit. This was like an instant connection to something that would otherwise be untouched. I love these moments. I love when a sight or a sound or a smell or a touch can connect me to something that would otherwise be unfelt
I have these memories which I keep sacred and locked away. And it’s okay to let them out sometimes. It’s okay to reminisce and feel. It’s okay to weep too, if that’s what hits you.
It’s okay to want to dig your toes in the sand, to remember a time on the beach when nothing else was important. We were all so alive back then.
And we’re still free too.
In fact, we can be just as free.
All we need to do is sit back and breathe in.
Just close your eyes.