Scents of Then

Marcel Proust had madelines… a shell-shaped fluted cupcake, I’m told, not that cartoon girl who lived with nuns (Miss Clavel? I thought nuns were all Sister Something??). Anyway, the aroma of those bakery items brought back hundreds of pages of memory for M. Proust.

What are your scent triggers – which whiffs transport you back to a simpler time? ‘Kay, for many of you it was a dark, tormented time – bear with me.

I can’t smell a lit mozzie coil without remembering camping out on Grandma’s patio. Lilos and couch cushions under an old school fabric tarp, that itself smelt of oiled, musty canvas. Grandpa’s garden poking inquisitive tendrils through the wrought iron balustrades; mock orange along the front, because Grandma had orange blossoms in her wedding bouquet. The sleep-out patio was where Grandpa would shell prawns for the family. He’d always do all our peeling. When Mum first met my Dad’s family they dived in like savages and peeled their own. She should have taken it as fair warning, don’t you reckon?


11 Responses

  1. I have Super Smell.
    The Bloke says that if ever the Sniffer Dogs go AWOL at the airport I could take over.

    I read an article once on how some researcher discovered that it’s common in veterans who’ve suffered trauma. they think that the emotional regulation centre and the smell centre may be side by side in the brain so are susceptible to the run off of all that heightened adrenalin that you get with trauma.

    Lots of smells for me are exactly that for me – triggers.
    I hate the smell of 4X with a passion.

    My mother smelled terrible.
    As part of the ever so charming family dynamic that we had going on I used to taunt her with ‘You smell bad and you’re gonna DIE!’
    Which she did.
    I think I’ve mentioned my attempt to poison her, aged three, at some point, to speed the process.

  2. Mmm, very interesting. I’m the same about rum. Even before it’s been spewed up in the gutter or on someone else’s shoes, rum – ‘specially Bundy – always smells like violence and bad deeds committed by halfwits in the dark.

    You have alluded to the attempted infantile poisoning but I’d love to know more. What toxin did you use, and what vehicle did you choose to administer it… and, any result?

  3. The scent of Mosxolivano in the air takes me back very far.

  4. Greek Orthodox? With a name like Boylan I was thinking, Irish Catholic. Maybe your mother’s side, PNB?

  5. Excellent analysis on limited data. My father is 4th generation American Irish, lapsed Catholic, now non-virulent atheist. But he married the daughter of a Greek Priest, Father Nicholas, who baptized me in a church he founded.

    Mosxolivano is a synthetic, much cheaper, substitute for frankincense and myrrh and smells, at least to me, nearly identical, so the sensory-memories the scent brings back reach far and wide.

  6. Mmm, I adore frankincense… the real amber-like chunks of resin kind.

    I, too, have early ecclesiastical memories of smoking censors – Anglicanism so High you could kiss the Pope’s shoes from where we went to church – but the scent of frankincense reminds me most of a womens’ circle I used to attend. Blessed be, ladies.

  7. blue dusty mouldy oranges = school bag.
    Heavy persistant steam has a distinct smell = my dad’s lab (autoclaves)
    fresh ginger in a pan = my commercial kitchen days
    Rum = violence

  8. Thanks for the memories – just reading ‘blue, dusty…’ took me straight back to the school veranda. We called them ‘ports’, though, and they used to be made of textured cardboard, like a cheap suitcase.

    And you’re with me on rum, Nbob – I have a sneaking suspicion many Aussies make that association.

  9. My mother was a keen gardener and I would follow her around the garden and be told ‘don’t touch that, it’s poisonous. It will kill you.’

    Meaning ‘Leave the FKN leaves, buds and flowers on the plants or I WILL KILL YOU.’
    she had trouble saying what she meant.

    Anyway, I figured out that since I had access to an 32 perch of poisonous shrubs if I made a boiling potion of the FKN lot of them, it should be enough to finish her off.
    So I did, and went off to her when she had one of her sick headaches (AKA scotch hangover) and said ‘I’ve made you some tea….’

    I was only three, and naive in the art of poisoning. It didn’t work.
    In retrospect I realize I should’ve mixed it with her scotch.

  10. I too expected PNB to have fond memories of boiled potatoes.

  11. Never mind, Quokka. For a three-year-old you made a red hot go at matricide. Not even a golf clap, an open-handed round of applause. Better luck next time!

    Glad I wasn’t the only one thrown by the Mediterranean input into PNB’s gene pool.

    I was sure it would be: boiled potatoes; soda bread; and the quiet scent of desperation as Fadder beat Billy, yet again and Angela’s ashes drifted… No, I’m confusing PNB with that McCourt bloke, now.

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