Scent is memory




Growing up in a house of 9, made up of seven children and three adults, I had to plan and pick my escapes wisely. We were never allowed to be out after dark, or leave our yard without permission. My extended family is even larger, and at a young age I befriened a cousin on mine on my mothers side. She was a few years older than me, I looked up to her, and we got along great. My mom never said no when I asked to spend the day or night or even weekend over at my favorite cousins house. And my moms sister, my aunt,  she never opposed either. My aunt and uncle smoked in the house, drank a lot of instant coffe, owned a pool, had a cat, and never replaced their carpet (still to this day.) The smells blended together over the years, and they remained thick and obvious no matter what was cooking in the oven. I would walk into their front door, and the specific smell would fill my nose and cling to my clothes, my hair, my skin. I always walked straight up to my cousins room, where I was met with another wall of smells. This cousin of mine, we'll call her Colleen, she grew up faster than I did. She stood several inches taller than me, she had HUGE breasts, the thick dark hair of a woman, and she FELT. When she was happy, she was HAPPY. If she was sad, you knew it. And if she was mad, get out of the way. I have a specific memory of opening her door one day, when were very young. I'd say she was only 13 years old and me 10. The smell of Barbie dolls, Cabbage Patch Kids, laundry detergent, hair spray, and nail polish mixed in the air together to form a comforting, almost pleasant smell. We spent summers together, and despite our difference in age we did actually gow up together. I learned a lot from her, and since time has passed I see that through watching her, and through our relationship I have learned a lot about myself. Years past and sleep overs stopped, and our time togehter reduced. We always found ways to reamin great friends, and she was always there for me. In January of 2006 I was in the hospital, and I still don't know how she knew I was there, but she came in to visit me. I woke up and she was at the foot of my bed, her eyes swollen from crying. I had been fast asleep, unaware that this person I loved so much, was there with me, loving me back and crying for my pain. I was on a lot of pain medicine, and I don't recall anymore if we talked or hugged or kissed. She left me a loving note, in her perfectly cursive handwriting. I still have the note today. That summer in 2006 I got a phone call from my mom who was on her first ever trip in an airplane. She had just landed in Colorado, and needed to tell me that my cousin, my Colleen, had passed away the night before. My mother's words stung over the phone "they found her this morning" and something about possible overdose. I can feel my own pain still, and I can feel the pain that I heard in my mothers voice. It was only then, me sitting in a house that wasn't mine, crying alone, that I remembered that day when we were young. Her smile was clear in my mind, and those smells came rushing back. In a wave of a flashback I was there, my ten year old self starring back at one of my most favorite people who wore a huge smile. As with any death, a part of yourself is lost as well. Every once in a while I would come across a photo, or a poem, or the note she had written me in the hospital. Even without reason, she comes to mind quite often. Forgetting someones laugh, or the sound of their voice... those are the tragedies of death for most people. For me, it was that smell that enveloped me from within. When she wrapped her arms around me in a hug, the smell of her filled my nose, and I cannot get that back. I was certain, I couldn't get that back. As the universe would have it, in January 2013 I walked into a clients house for the first time, and politely asked to use the restroom before we began our session. My client has two daughters of her own, and both are off to college, so I slipped into their designated bathroom. No sooner did I close the door behind me, than was I met with this intense wall of scent memory. It stopped me in my tracks! Almost immediately the memories came and went and I was smiling! I was standing there in this bathroom, holding the hand towel between my clenched fists and I was smiling! The smell of girl and perfume and hair spray and cat and tile met my nose in a symphony of joy. Every bit of fear I had held on to until them dissappeard. That horrible, helpless fear that I would Forget the details of my sweet beloved cousin; it left me. I believe there is nothing more powerful than the scent/memory connection. In that instant, and everytime I've visited my clients house since then, I have been with Colleen. The wonderful smell brings me great joy, and I often find my mind traveling to other related memories because of it. That's a wonderful thing, to get back a part of someone you've lost. And I am a happier person for knowing that I will never forget her, and I am forever grateful for those few moments I have where I am transported back into her small bedroom, and she has her arms wrapped around me squeezing me like the young child I am, and my nose is buried in her hair, and I can smell her. She is there, she is here, with me, and we are happy.