They say scent is the most powerful memory trigger. Today I was faced with this very trigger, seemingly randomly. While taking a stroll with my dog, I walked by this old building turned antique auction house. Somebody from inside called to me and said ‘Hey, I have something for you’. I said ‘Oh?’ and followed him (maybe against my better judgement, but I live in a small town). The man had some dog treats for my dog, which basically meant he was my dogs best friend now.
Still, as I entered this old building, I was hit by this peculiar scent. I immediately thought of my Mamagan (my maternal grandmother). How to describe this scent? Thinking of it logically, it was the smell of cigarettes and dated furniture. Maybe an old wood drenched in the scent of cigarettes, really. But actually, when I smelled this scent, I didn’t think of it as wood/cigarette smell. I thought of My Mamagan and her house. My Mamagan’s house was this little cottage-like home wrapped in wooden shingles and, from what I remember, a lot of wooden furniture and accents. Plus, as the other scent would suggest, she smoked. A lot. Of course this antique auction building is filled with all such furniture. Old furniture and a man who likes to smoke and give treats to the neighbourhood dogs.
I left this encounter thinking of the correlation between scent and memory. I was taken back to that home my Mamagan lived in that seemed to be a castle to me as a child. I’m sure, though, that it was not much bigger than a few rooms. I always found that place to be so magical, with it’s nooks and crannies. The kicker to all of this is that, not only is that house long gone (burned down in a fire years after we moved away), but my Mamagan has also been gone for over 18 years.
That such a specific scent (despite sounding so unpleasant) can bring back these vivid memories of a period of time. Stuck in time with this scent that cannot be bottled or easily recreated, but every once in a while appears out of nowhere, just as quickly fading away as if it never was.