The ability of certain smells to stir memories is fascinating. The scent of Murphy’s Oil Soap puts me in the library of my elementary school where the sour scented soap was used to clean shelves. The aroma of a pepperoni Totino’s Party Pizza instantly transports me to my grandmother’s living room in Rising Sun, Indiana. Spending the weekend with grandma meant Friday evening in front of the TV watching “The Dukes of Hazzard” while splitting a pizza with her and my brother. Food and entertainment quality aside, those are good memories indeed.
There is one aroma with more power than anything to send me back in time. Organic solvents cut through my brain nearly halting every other bit of sensory activity. For decades, my dad worked in a factory around lacquer paint and solvents. The smell of those chemicals would latch onto the fabric of his clothes and then announce his arrival home each weekday afternoon. My brother and I joke that we could always small our dad before we saw him.
On those afternoons when dad arrived home in all his aromatic wonderfulness, he also brought a sense of comfort and protection. There was a period in my childhood when it was just the three guys – me, my brother and my dad.
Each afternoon my brother and I would come home after school, have a snack and watch cartoons while waiting for dad to get home. Sure, it was nice to be home, but until the trio was complete the world was unsettled. Having that solvent smell waft in the door brought balance.
On a recent morning I was walking around an area of my office building that was undergoing renovation. An overwhelmingly pungent smell of organic solvents poured from the door of the suite. It was so strong I felt a bit lightheaded, but as with anytime those aromas enter my nose, memories were set free.