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.