The other day, when I was walking home, I had forgotten my umbrella and got completely drenched during a downpour. By the time I made it home, the sun had finally decided to make a brief appearance. I had this strange wave of nostalgia. There was this smell in the air, of wet pine cones, and drops of water hanging onto freshly mowed grass, and warm sunshine that smelled like a campfire without any smoke. I stood out there for 10 minutes just sniffing the air like a crazy person.
It smelled like my childhood. Those warm September days spent playing in the park after a thunderstorm. Of carefree days. People try to save memories in albums and souvenirs hoping to catch a glimpse of days gone by down the road. Our biggest fear is forgetting.
Little do a lot of people know that our strongest memories are associated with smells. You may forget the conversation you had or the name of the restaurant you visited, but you will never forget the smell of that grape juice box you took to school when you were a kid. Scents are special because they don’t exactly strike you with memories, they strike you with old emotions. Here are some smells you might recall from your childhood to strike up those old nostalgic feelings:
Freshly sharpened pencils
Hey, you’ve grown past your days of using No. 2’s, and you’re either typing away or writing with pens now. That woodsy smell of freshly sharpened pencils will always remind you of elementary school – those carefree days of not really having responsibilities. They’ll remind you of standing beside that barely held together sharpener stuck to the wall, desperately trying to get that perfect point. They’ll bring you back to a time when all you needed was a No. 2 and a stack of blank paper to feel ready to conquer the world.
This is all the swimming lessons in the summer, birthday pool parties, laughing and fun in the sun with all of your friends. This is pruned skin and exhaustion from when your parents demanded you get out of the pool. Chlorine is hearing the ice-cream truck as you walked home with the towel looped around your neck, it’s the thrill of racing down the street to get that orange creamsicle.
I rarely see people drinking this anymore, but growing up, Sunny D was the actual shit. You surely remember that sugary-diabetes orange smell. Kids drank more of this stuff than actual water. This is standing in the ice-cold freezer section (with no jacket) at the grocery store and trying to convince your parents of the nutritional benefits of the joy that is Sunny Delight.
Asphalt on a hot day
In hindsight, this might actually smell gross, but it was a staple if you grew up in a hot town. The pavement almost always smelt like roasting cement. You didn’t care, you were more interested in shooting some hoops. Maybe in the long run, it was sweat on a hot day, but either way – that time spent outside was the best.
No, not the tape kind, but that liquid variety that you could practically get high off of. I’m pretty sure some of the kids in my class did, it would explain their behavior.
This smell is unforgettable. Especially when you were trying to get it out of your hair after your friend kept on throwing it at you. Think of those Mr. Potato Head commercials of growing play-doh hair. The variety pack with all the colors you could dream of so that you could smush them all together to make brown.
You know, those frozen liquid juice things that came in different flavors. Nothing was more exciting than the JUMBO freeze. That smell of sugar totally reminds you of bouncing off the walls excitement after that first sip. They’ll remind you of arguing with your friends over who got the blue flavor that nobody wanted.
Woven plastic picnic mats
They weren’t fancy but they did the job. They also had this specific smell when they got really hot. Picnic mats are long days at the beach covered in sunscreen, they’re sitting in the backyard with the wind blowing in your face.
Okay, you can tell me otherwise but it definitely smelt different from tap water. Maybe it was that slight smell of rusty old pipes. Hose water smelt of water fights, sprinklers, and slip and slides.
Xerox printed paper
The teacher handing out paper fresh out of the printer was the best feeling. Everyone would be running their hands over their still warm handout and taking a good ole’ sniff. It was a truly addicting smell. Xerox paper is asking your neighbors for answers, it’s looking at the clock above the door waiting for the bell to ring, and it’s the classroom exploding with noise as soon as the teacher stepped out.
It might be the smell of grease-laden pizza from your high school caf or that nasty perfume your best friend wore all through that one smoggy summer, but you won’t ever get those smells out of your head, smell is memory. Smell doesn’t remind you of the outside, it reminds you of who you were on the inside. They remind you of simpler days, or more complicated ones. Things change, people change, you might have changed, but the smells will always remind you of who you once were.
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