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Wednesday, April 20, 2011



We all know that smell is one of our five senses and as with the other senses, it can trigger memories recently or from long ago. There were certain smells that as a child I definitely remember: Some I don’t have to smell to remember them for they were unforgettable such as paregoric [I had to use that with my sons when they were teething babies and one whiff and it instantly reminded me of when I was little] which had a horrible smell—one that made you want to run for your life away from it.

Another was ammonia: My mother used it to clean with and it literally took away your breath. Not only was and is it bad but it permeated every inch of the house. I would run to open up the screen door to escape its smell.

Chlorine was a smell I loved as a child for it meant the swimming pool and I loved to swim. That smell was in the good category and still is to this day.

The perking of coffee was heavenly and although as a kid I didn’t drink it, I would as an adult. Brings back memories of long ago when breakfast was being cooked and so does the smell of bacon frying in a skillet. What two great smells those were and how they evoke childhood memories.

The smell of real pine is right up there on my top ten list of wonderful memories: It brings back the smells of all of those Christmases past and just makes me feel good.

Cornbread fresh out of the oven triggers a memory of its being made when I was little and wanting some so bad but I couldn’t have any till it had cooled. And so did green beans being cooked in the pressure cooker: What a wonderful smell!

Probably a faux pas but I remember my grandfather smoking his cigars every evening and oh how I loved that smell. That was long ago but rationalizing it, I know that the smell meant security for he was there with me.

New car smell: Hard to describe but once you smelled it, you never forgot it.

One smell that I don’t have to smell to remember is that of wet wool: It gagged me and just the thought of it still does. Reminds me of when my dog got wet—indescribable but unforgettable.

Spaghetti sauce being cooked reminds me of being at my aunt’s house after school and watching her fix it. I remember how steamy the kitchen windows got and much I looked forward to my favorite food ever.

Roses bring back memories of being in my grandmother’s backyard and playing: It was a happy smell and still is. But carnations reminded me when I was little of funeral homes; to this day, I can’t smell them without thinking that.

Freshly squeezed lemons bring back memories of my friends having lemonade sales and burning up outside in the heat. But it was and is a good smell still.

There used to be a television commercial a long while back where a neighbor opens up a woman’s front door and said, “Fried fish last night?” The commercial was for some air freshener. Not sure if I like that fried fish smell even today. All of us are affected by smells: Some are good while others are really bad. And it depends upon the individual whether he or she associated it with something that was going on that made them happy or sad or just plain terrible. “What’s that smell?” Who knows? Depends upon what it is! But at least you know some that I like and those that I don’t.

Sherry Hill

After some friends responded to this post, I just have to add  four smells [two were posted as one friend's favorite smells] for they were always a part of my life:

Crayons --How could I ever forget that wonderful smell? I was hooked the first time I ever opened a box of them which was probably when I was three or so. Still love to smell crayons and must have gone through tons as a kid, more as a mom and millions as a second grade teacher. When doing some artworks, I use them in mixed media and upon opening that box, I am a kid again.

Paint--Not only did I love the smell of wall paint but when I was first exposed to finger paint, then water colors, tempera paint and acrylics, I was in love with these smells. Still am minus the finger paint for that went by the wayside when I was five. Although each paint smell is different, I know and love them all.

Turpentine--Pungent when I was little and pungent today. When my parents were cleaning out brushes used to paint the walls inside our house or the outside, turpentine was always used then. I used it myself when I was using oil paints and had to clean my brushes; I quit using oil and switched to acrylics and never looked back on turpentine. Definitely not one of my favorite smells but one you can conjure up in your senses.

Honeysuckle--It was always growing everywhere I lived as a kid and even now, as an adult, it's around me. The sweet smell takes me back to my childhood instantly and reminds me of endless days of summer and happiness.


  1. You've skillfully guided us down another memory lane, Sherry. Paregoric. I had forgotten, and with good reason. You know what it is, don't you? tinctura opii camphorata, otherwise known as Camphorated tincture of opium!

  2. Wonderful compliment Joe! Thanks! Yes, I knew that paregoric was opium [but not as a kid] and all pediatricians prescribed it for babies when it came to teething long ago. Most disgusting smell ever! Eww

  3. Do you remember the smell after a rain? The dirt smelled so good that I tried to eat it, but it didn't taste the way it smelled.

    I also loved the smell of a library. The smell of a good book was heavenly.

  4. Play Doh is another wonderful childhood smell.