Makes Scents

Disclaimer: This one is long-winded wordy. Bear with me.

There are few things in life that spark a tangible memory, a feeling or deep-rooted emotions–something that whisks us back in time filled with intrigue and curiosity. One – which I’ve mentioned before – is music; the other (and arguably much more intense) is a scent.

It’s amazing how just a slight fragrance of something can transport us to a time we thought we had long forgotten or buried in our past: a person, a place or a product (ahem–unintended alliteration). We’re hurtled away beyond our control where our capture is not content to stop quietly at contenting us with a vague memory.

I experienced this five months ago after we visited a British import store (not in MT, unfortunately) and I bought my husband and brother-in-law some Irn Bru. Irn Bru is a soft drink made solely in Scotland concocted in 1901, and it is the only red-headed pubescent schoolboy-coloured drink in the world that outsells Coke (I wonder if that ticks them off no end?). For years it was only available in Scotland, but can now, in the last decade or more, be bought in the rest of the UK, Australia, (sparsely in the US) and the Soviet Republic (don’t ask).

I stopped drinking my caffeinated beverage of choice – Dr. Pepper – when I became pregnant with Ian, I decided to make the change, no one asked me to. And anyway, I soon noticed that if I didn’t have one every day, I’d experience excruciating headaches – as close to migraines as I cared to get.

I didn’t buy one for myself, but opted for Ginger Beer (and definitely not alike to it’s North American cousin, Ginger Ale. This ginger drink has “chungas”) and happily chugged it, burning the tender lining of my esophagus and nether regions.

On returning to my mother-in-law’s place, I opened up my brother-in-law’s bottle and took a sniff. I was suddenly standing in my Mum’s living room, loitering right next to her chair. It threw me for six. Mum drinks it like it’s going out of fashion, and for a brief moment, I’d forgotten that. Home sickness, a longing, emptiness–whatever you want to call it, swept over me like a cold unwanted blanket. Silent tears fell and I realised how much I missed my family, and how guarded and reticent I’d let myself become.

Similar instances of this have occurred since then, but this one I find much more intriguing. It happens every time I walk through the heavy mental doors leading to Ian’s pre-school class. I don’t know what it is: it might be the art supplies, kid friendly glue or the disinfectant floor cleaner. There is something innately familiar (and comforting) about the smell, and it smells just like my pre-school did way back when. I pause as I walk in and take a deep breath, soaking in all the care-free, clay molding, easel painting innocence.

I recently sat in on the class and helped out with their craft project (she made it look like helping her was my idea, I was impressed, but really, I wanted to help). They’d pre-painted some paper plates brown and were going to put monkey faces on them. The other teacher was gone for the day and had remarked how she’d completed the homework only to find it chewed by the dog the following morning.

I sat and made a template on deep cream (construction) paper with a large oval disc, adding two small circle discs to the top, slightly joining. I then preceded to cut out eight of these for the class. Following that, I cut sixteen brown ears adding a straight edge and sixteen circle inside parts in deep cream. As I neared the competition of the last ears the teacher said, “Do you have a template I could copy?” “Yeah, I have it right here.” “OK good, I need to make some for the afternoon class later–” “I can do it, how many more do you need?” “Oh, another eight.”

I enjoy walking into the world of a pre-schooler where life is simpler and familiar. Despite the struggles I have trying to reason and explain motives and actions with Ian, I am careful to take the time to enjoy it. I know all too soon, it will be gone in an instant with only a faint memory to draw on.


15 responses to “Makes Scents

  1. I know exactly what you mean. Irn Bru (made in Scotland from girders) and Red Kola do the same thing to me. It’s so nostalgic and saddening at the same time. Ugh!

    It’s a familiar feeling to stepping out of Walmart and feeling as far away from home as I can possibly get and it hits me like a ton of bricks.

    I’m going to go away and greet for wee while.

  2. My very first memories–no kidding–are of my first visit to Scotland with my mom and my little sister when I was about 2 1/2. I remember not only sight and sounds and general feelings of family and comfort but the smells… wow. Every so often I’ll come across a smell of… something… that whisks me back 30 odd years.
    An Iru Bru was my first soda. 😉 That has a taste like no other. And my first salt and vinegar chips were Piccadilly’s…oh, man, I’m getting hungry. *drools*

  3. That was the best post I’ve read in weeks…..Although I cannot relate to your specific experiences, I share the same intense emotions sparked by scents and sounds. I felt the same homesickness while living alone, 3000 miles away from my family…just from the scent of jasmine rice. And even today, certain colognes will always remind me of past loves in my life. And your scenario of pre-school had me in tears….
    A beautifully written post 🙂

  4. The senses are amazing like that, they conger up the emotions felt from years ago. Sight does it for me as well. I have been scrapbooking my son’s pictures and came across his preschool ones. Mind you, this was 21 years ago, but it still brought back the memories of those days.
    Frosties Root Beer was my first soda pop and I don’t think they are in business anymore. Now, when I have a Root Beer it suffers in comparison to that first Frosties I ever had, ice cold from an old pop machine with the bottle opener on the side.

  5. When I first went to Canada on a fishing trip, we picked up a can of this stuff called Klick, as it reminded one of our party of Spam, which he loved. He proclaimed that it was just as good. I proclaimed that it was crap, because it also reminded me of Spam, of which I was not a fan. When as a wee lad, I saw the embryonic fluid that surrounded the Spam module when my mom opened it and when I woke up from my comma 10 days later, swore I would never even speak the name again. Mom tried several clever attempts to get it down my gullet, disguised as something else, but once you have seen the heart of evil, it can never be hidden again.

    While most of my time travel is due to music (Time Travel 101), I also have certain smells that unlike the above example, send me to a ‘better time’; Mountain Dew, burning leaves and potato pancakes are but a few. Needless to say, I do quite a bit of Time traveling.

  6. That was great. You’re really right about smells – I’ve also experienced that feeling, almost like time travel, on walking into a school as an adult. I think it’s the disinfectant they use.

  7. It is always so pleasant when a smell takes you home … and so frustrating when you find you can’t stay there.

  8. I agree, Siobhan. Scents are more powerful and this comes from a guy who loves music. But you might not like what I say next. I have never acquired the taste for Irn Bru. I love the name but the flavor, colour and yes, the scent put me off. I feel like a traitor.

  9. Hi Siobhan! I love your name. I clicked through to your blog from Mrs Fussypants’ site, and I will definitely be back. I’m a little obsessed with all things Scottish and Irish…and even English to a certain extent. I even blogged about Robert Burns’ birthday the other day! And included a big picture of him (I think he’s really cute.)

    When you said in your 101 things that you have a soft spot for marines, do you mean US Marines, or some kind of sea creature? Because, I’ve often made that statement myself, even on my blog, because my brother was a marine in Desert Storm, and once a marine, always a marine.

    And I totally agree with you about smells bringing everything back, just as strongly as music. It’s amazing.

    Hope you’ll visit my blog when you get a moment!

  10. anglophilefootballfanatic

    Oh, S. I have heard of the famous soda. And, now not only am I wanting a fried Mars bar, I want some Irn Bru. Now if that isn’t enough to send one into a diabetic coma, I don’t know what is!

    I love how your senses are able to transport you to memories. I’m sorry yours made you homesick. You’re going home soon!!

  11. The smell of Irn-Bru makes me a little nauseous. But I actually miss the smell of Glasgow – the aroma of brewing beer from the Tennent’s brewery and the slightly-off smell of the River Kelvin. Ahhhh.

  12. Very interesting site that I find rich, pleasant and well organized!
    Honour for me if you include it in my “Multilingual” topliste Panorama
    Best continuation!
    Sincerrely Yours! Kamdou

  13. Its amazing what a scent can do, i spent some time in Canada a few years back and once a week would get a bottle of irn bru and a pack of potato scones and think of home

  14. Sentimental nonsense. Typical woman.

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