More than freshly mown grass

This morning, while emptying the dishwasher and cleaning the kitchen counter (yawn, yawn) I picked up and accidentally squeezed a bottle of wash-up liquid that I keep to hand for the occasional manual scrub. Out popped a few tiny bubbles and into the air they floated. Breathing in the scent automatically, for an instant I was transported back to happy, childhood times when ‘bubbles’ and a small, plastic ring meant so many things – fun, playtime… easy, innocent enjoyment outdoors with my pals. Even memories of walking behind my own two cherubs some 16 years ago while they happily blew rows of soft pink bubbles into the air rushed back in.

It made me think. I’m always amazed at how powerfully and speedily a smell or scent can bring back memories. Instantly we relive places, feelings, moods from years gone by.

For me there are some obvious and less obvious ones. The smell of freshly baked bread, ah yes, my mother and her wonderfully light, Irish soda bread. Fresh from the oven. Our bright, yellow kitchen. Melting butter on a hot slice with a large mug of tea. Strawberry jam. Joy.

Freshly brewed coffee beans? Easy peasy: Bewley’s café, a trademark brand in Ireland for many years. As an 18 year old I’d pass their Westmoreland Street shop in the early hours, en route to Bank of Ireland’s head office. My sleepy head, dulled from the long bus ride into town, would lift as the familiar, enticing aroma floated into the street and for a few seconds I’d mentally relax into the warm, cosy ambiance that is uniquely Bewley’s. Happy days.

Old fashioned Eau de cologne – a tough one to find nowadays outside France – my grandmother’s staple (and only) bottle of scent. Splashed on liberally every day, it’s fresh, zingy scent reminds me so easily of her lively presence. Amazing woman, twice married she raised two daughters independently, survived two world wars, ran her own ‘sweet shop’ for 30 years and never spent a day in hospital until the age of 92. Fabulous.

Freshly mown grass – here’s where I join Hermione Granger’s happy scent memories. My father on a Sunday afternoon, mowing the front lawn. Full of energy at the start he’d end up sweating buckets, cursing under his breath as the heavy, old mower got stuck in a clump of weeds and my mother, sister and I sniggered from behind the living room window. Mugs of tea and iced buns in our hands that same day as we all relaxed later on the freshly mown lawn. Neighbours stopping by for a quick chat as they passed by.

Of course there are a few less pleasant ones too – to this day I cannot abide the smell of cooked cabbage or cauliflower. Nor can my sister. Childhood visits to a scary and depressing old people’s hospital many moons ago is the association. I doubt this one will ever go away.

But on the whole it’s mostly happy places I’m brought back to. Maybe it’s time to make a new one, which brings me to that unopened bar of chocolate that’s lurking in the kitchen drawer.

Yum. Enough said.

Sunday afternoon
Full of energy at the start, he’d end up sweating buckets
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32 thoughts on “More than freshly mown grass

  1. I have no sense of smell… never have! However, you paint the memories so vividly that I can taste the butter dripping… I can well imagine pushing that mower and then seeing the little ones trashing the piles of clippings as soon as I turn my back to rake the next one! Bliss… or was it? 😉

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    1. Haha, thanks so much! These days really were happy ones, no fuss, no big deal or planning required. Just easy couple of hours relaxing in the sun, enjoying big mugs of strong Irish tea! 🙂

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  2. Thank you for the lovely trip down the scented avenue of memories. I could identify with each wonderful smell you described – from the newly baked bread and fresh coffee to the smell of a newly mowed lawn. I can’t say I dislike the smell of cooking vegetables – although I agree that cabbage and caulifloweraren;t the best, especially outside of the kitchen. A lot of smells take me back to my own – or my children’s – childhoods. You’re so right to stress the place this sense plays in our lives.

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    1. You are so welcome, thanks for the lovely comment. 🙂 Yes, it amazes me how quickly a scent or aroma can resurrect memories, and from the comments here it is a widely shared thing. We hardly realise that as we breathe, we are storing up these secret memories for later on. Good and less than good (but mostly joyous, glad to say!). Hope all well with you.

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    1. I know what you mean, smells/scents are so evocative, aren’t they? The pictures, haha, my husband draws them, in a few minutes. I love the style, fits well with what I put up, I think.

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  3. When I read freshly mown grass I immediately thought of hermione, and was so happy that you made that reference later in your post.
    I go by smells a lot, I think I must have some cat genes. Some smells for me are my mom’s face cream (although she doesn’t use it anymore), also love the smell of the rain on earth (takes me back to my childhood), fresh bread (local bakery), and weirdly the smell of fur in the sun ( like when a cat has sunned itself for a while, the fur smells all sunshiney) 😛

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    1. Haha, glad you liked that reference I did wonder how it would be viewed but felt it had to go in. I love your ‘smells’ (that sounds weird!) really make me smile, rain on earth is such a good one, and warm fur? Fantastic! Thanks for the share and the comment 🙂

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  4. These powerful flashes of memory seem to come out of nowhere and are indeed thrilling or … disturbing. I imagine we all have our grandmother’s particular cologne/perfume floating around somewhere in our neurons 🙂

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  5. Lovely read. I was only sat thinking about the same thing this morning – how quickly we can be transported back to a time, place or event just by a smell or texture of something suddenly revisited.

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  6. Oh yes, smells…. Last year I had a really bad cold, that stayed on for weeks and I guess I used the nose spray a bit too long (but I really needed to sleep at night, which I can’t really if I cannot breath properly). Suddenly one day I realised I was not smelling anything. Not the usual kitchen things, not the tooth paste, nothing. I have to say I started to panic a bit, remembering the stories about the nose spray… So I threw the thing in the bin, suffered for about three days – and you can imagine how relieved I was when the smells returned! Gradually, but definitely. It was like the whole world intensified. – Since them I am really careful with nose sprays…. 😉

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  7. I was thinking about this very subject the other day. Actually, it seems like smells bring back memories more than ever before. I wonder if my sense of smell is improving with age for that very reason… transporting me back to earlier days and reminding me of good (as well as difficult) times. Lovely post, thanks so much.

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