All five senses engage the part of our brain in charge of memory. The loud stereo of the neighbor’s high schooler can trigger thoughts of what you were listening to when you were the one being asked to “turn it down”. The sight of the first boyfriend’s picture in an old yearbook can make you ask, “What was I thinking?” The taste of lemon meringue pie recalls summer picnics when the whole extended family came over for Sunday supper after church. The feel of a handshake from a business associate can remind you how much you trust- or not- that person.
Still, as strong as these senses elevate memories, is there any more powerful emotional trigger than smell? Do you ever wonder why? I can only guess that it is because scents are ephemeral. Smell is the only sense that we can adjust to and shortly forget its presence. We notice scents for just a short while, quickly adjust and soon take the gift our breath bestowed on us for granted. And then good or bad, only if a particular scent is reintroduced will we associate a particular memory with it. Being the most elusive of the five senses to quantify, scent is not the most accurate indicator of an experience. But what it lacks in accuracy, it makes up in power.
The scent of a baby, clean from the bath, conjures memories innocent and pure. I found this short poem by Maureen Hawkins that sums up the experience of motherhood
Before you were conceived, I wanted you.
Before you were born, I loved you.
Before you were here an hour, I would die for you.
This is the miracle of life.
Okay. I’m not particularly brave, but I am filled with curiosity. If I were a cat, I would have died a long time ago. I loved being a mother to active little boys. I had to find out, what would happen if I were to scrub the tile floors with the suds of baby shampoo. I wanted to know, what I would feel even before I got up from my hands and knees. Would it be any different from the usual cleaning routine?
“No More Tears” cleaned fine. Old Johnson and Johnson was strong enough to clean the floor and replenish my spirit. My eyes attentive to specks needing to be removed, my right hand drawing concentric circles with a slightly dripping sponge dipping in and out of a blue bucket, my mind was taken back to some of the things little boys could manage to cover themselves in. Decades ago this same scent had been there as my sons were cleaned of caked-on mud, smeared on grass stains and spots of what might have been tar. I remembered days when they filled the spa with bubble bath, to my kissing the hurt of scrapes away and packing lunch pails for first days of school.
Such a simple touch. Baby shampoo may cost less to use than what I used before, but with it a chore transformed in to a ritual. What was a mundane chore is now a ritual rich with daydreams. I smell “no tears” formula and it isn’t long before my tear ducts have traces of happy memories forming along the rims.