I noticed today how smells bring back memories in a rush of emotions. I walked past a lady who was wearing Yardley’s English Lavender, the same perfume that my Nanna wore on special occasions.
When I was a kid I would save up to be able to buy her a little bottle for Christmas. It is a light fresh perfume that never fails to evoke memories of Nanna squeezing me up against her in a sideways hug. I was usually in too much of a hurry for a proper hug, so the sideways version had to suffice. When Nanna died, I bought myself a Yardley’s English Lavender sachet to put under my pillow to remind me of her. Today, passing that lady wearing my Nanna’s scent, I braced myself for the sideways hug that happened in my mind.
The smell of camphor reminds me of the little bag that Mum would hang around my neck every winter. The camphor bag was to ward off colds and flu. I had to wear it next to my skin, under my flannelette petticoat. I am not sure how well it worked, but I cannot smell camphor without putting a hand to my chest where that little muslin bag rested.
The smell of eucalyptus reminds me of the steaming kettle that was in my bedroom at night whenever I was having problems with my asthma. This was pre-asthma puffers. Great clouds of eucalyptus steam floated around the room and the light from the little spirit stove created dancing shadow monsters. It was scary and exciting all at once. My imagination ignited and I saw myself camping out on the prairie, or in the jungle with Tarzan or on a pirate-infested island.
Another odour that brings back great memories is the smell of library books. Frequently handled, much read, not so new books have a smell all their own. It is the smell of exciting tales of adventure and mystery, the smell of stories of faraway places, the smell of journeys of discovery, the smell of infinite possibilities. It is a smell to be inhaled deeply as one opens the chosen book. It is a smell of wonder and comfort. I was two when I first joined a library and I have loved libraries ever since.
Of course, the most enduring and delicious smell is the smell of home. Our house smelled of Mr Sheen furniture polish in the dining room, naphthalene flakes in the linen closet, something yummy in the oven, Sunlight soap in the laundry, all manner of Avon perfumes in my bedroom, all manner of boy smells in my brother’s bedroom, the occasional doggie smell wherever Candy was, and tea and biscuits on the kitchen table. The smell of home was always special. It was the smell that signified safety and welcome. It was the smell that meant all was well.
It was/is the smell of my childhood.