Scent-memory can transport me to a time and place in history at the speed of inhale.

  • The smell of July's heat on a pine needle blanket…to years of Summer camp.
  • Mothballs…to my grandmother's cedar closet.
  • Estee Lauder Youth Dew perfume…to high school (that one even has me shaking my head!).
  • Shrimp boiling…to the time my mom tried to convince me I'd like it when I was 8 (it took me 10 years to discover she was right).
  • Mentholatum…to my father, every time I was sick as a child.

I'm sure there are more, but those come easily to mind.

DSC_4466 And then there's Jergens Lotion.

Walking through Walmart's health and beauty aisle the other day, I spotted a row of bottles.  I paused long enough to lift one from the shelf, open the lid, and inhale.

Breathe in…the same cherry-almond scent from a lifetime ago…breathe out…sitting on our cool black and white pentagon-shaped tiled bathroom floor, lotioning up my legs and arms and everywhere in between.  It was my grandmother's house, actually, and she always had a few bottles of Jergens strategically placed.  Her car.  The linen closet.  Her nightstand. 

And in that moment my thoughts leapt from Jergens lotion to wintergreen Isopropyl alcohol after-bath back rubs by my grandmother, to her ambrosial flower garden, an intoxicating bouquet of gardenia and rose and lily of the valley, to her make-up: a compact and lipstick, and in those days, their scent distinct, waxy yet unspectacular, in sharp contrast to today's protocol of aromatic elixer in a tube.

All that, in 30 seconds while snorting a bottle of lotion at Walmart. 

Though it doesn't look like the teardrop-shape-with-black-lid of my childhood, it smells the same; when all is said and done, that's the only thing that matters, anyway, don't you agree?

Which got me thinking…I'm a fan of Bath and Body Works.  Though I have my favorite scent (Sun-Ripened Raspberry anyone?), I like many of them.  But, 35 years from now, will anyone be prompted to write a slice of nostalgia based on scent memory?  Will Sun-Ripened Raspberry still be in existence?  Will Bath and Body Works?? 

I bought that bottle of Jergens; what I brought home was delightfully more than three ounces of lotion.

Your turn:  What strong scent-memories link to your childhood? 

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