Friday, September 17, 2010

The Senses--Smell

Texas Bluebonnets smell
like orange blossoms
Have you ever been in a crowd and smelled a fragrance that immediately brought back a memory? What about walking down the sidewalk in a park or residential area and catching a nostalgic scent on the breeze? I once heard some nutty so-called expert on television say people can't remember scents. Oh, yeah? Maybe he can't, but most people can and do. The sense of smell is a strong trigger for our emotions.

Each summer when I was small we went to my grandmother's in Southern Oklahoma for a couple of weeks. Don't ask me why we usually waited until August to visit her, but we did. No, she didn't have air conditioning, but at least she lived in an older home with tall windows and cross ventilation. By August, her town always faced water rationing, so she could only water on certain days and mostly just the vegetable garden. We were supposed to only use two inches of water for our baths. It never occurred to me no one was watching how much water I ran into the tub, but I suppose the water meter would have tattled. Anyway, one of the things my grandmother always grew were her petunias because they could tolerate the hot arid weather. Every time I smell petunias now I think of my grandmother's flowers. 

The same is true for Coty powder. Once it was available at all drug stores and variety stores, but it's only sold a few places now. My grandmother used it exclusively, and my mom started using it when she decided the Este Lauder I bought her was too expensive except for "special" occasions. Now my brother, daughters, and I grow nostalgic whenever we smell Coty face powder.

What's the point of my memories? When we write, our characters have those same memories. Whatever their situation, scents will trigger emotions--both good and bad. We had better record those sensations to insure our characters are credible.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Coty powder always reminds me of my grandmother too.