Scent Memories

Today I unpacked a box of my mother’s things. In it was a clean dish towel acting as a buffer between two dishes. On a whim I raised the towel to my rose, inhaled and began to weep.

Fourteen months and change she’s been gone now, even longer since she’d had her own place. Yet this towel, packed snugly away for years still held the scent of the place it came from. It smelled the way I remember her last apartment did; a combination of her perfume, fabric softener and the faint scent of cooking. It smelled of home, of love, of a dozen memories so fleeting they were but whispers through my mind.

My heart was heavy with longing to feel like someone’s child again. In this world, I will never again feel her embrace, never hear her voice. It’s unfathomable, but at the same time my reality. For a time, I still have the scent memory of her. I allowed myself only brief moments of indulgence, then got a Ziploc freezer bag and sealed the towel in it, hoping to preserve for a time, my mother in a scent.

Have you ever had a sharp reminder of the past from a whiff of something unexpected? Did it turn you to mush or buoy your spirits?

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About Carol Burnside / Annie Rayburn

Carol Burnside is an award-winning author of the Sweetwater Springs series of contemporary romance with serious sizzle and a variety of other works, some written as Annie Rayburn. Her novel length manuscripts have placed in numerous contests and won five, including the prestigious Maggie Award for Excellence. Carol / Annie blogs here, most always with a glass of sweet tea within arm's reach.
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13 Responses to Scent Memories

  1. Thanks for your ‘like’ feedback, Rebecca and Bonnie. May God comfort you both as you continue to grieve.

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  2. I had the same feeling when I found my dad’s jacket hanging on the back of a door – and I still have boxes and boxes I can’t quite bring myself to go through..

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  3. Pam Asberry says:

    I feel the same way when I go through my brother’s things. Life is tougher than we ever bargained for, isn’t it?

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  4. Randy says:

    When I saw this link on FB this afternoon, I didn’t realize it was a personal link and I was busy so I passed on by. Tonight, I saw it again and realized what it was about. Bittersweet is the perfect word, isn’t it? I haven’t experienced anything like that with my brother or father’s things, even though I have my dad’s flight jacket and some of his other war garments. But I DO have a scent memory to share. It was a perfume (probably more accurately toilet water!) that I’d somehow come to possess when I was a little girl. It sat on my vanity for years and years–in fact, I don’t know whatever happened to it because I would NEVER have thrown it out. Anyway, there was something about it–something I couldn’t put into words–but every time I uncapped the bottle and sniffed it, I was immediately transported back to my childhood–back to a time when my mother was alive. See, I’m not saying it reminded me of her and it was certainly not anything she wore, but still…for one brief moment, I’d be back in a different time and space. And then the feeling would go away. I’d sniff it again, but the feeling would be gone. The funny thing is, I know perfumes supposedly lose their scent in a short amount of time, but not this one. I wish I could remember what it was called.

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    • Oh, Randy, that’s really a sweet memory. I don’t think I’ll ever smell White Linen again without thinking of my mother. Yeast breads cooking remind me of my mother’s mother, my Granny. I think it’s really neat how our minds tuck away things like that and access them again so easily.

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  5. You make me want to cry. I remember my father smoking a pipe. Any time a smell a pipe I think of him.

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  6. Anita whitten says:

    All I have to do is smell the old Jergens lotion. I think it is the oldest scent I can remember from a baby. Jergens lotion smells like my mama!

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    • OMG, that made me remember too, Anita! My Aunt Veva (Genevieve) used original Jergens. I’ll always associate that cherry-almond scent with her. It brings back a clear picture of her puttering around her neat-as-a-pin kitchen, laughing and chatting away. Every time she washed her hands, she also rubbed in a dollop of Jergens.

      Isn’t it wonderful, that connection?

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