Childhood Scents

I was in a department store today and a woman walked by wearing Chanel No. 5; it’s what my mother used to wear, and the scent brought me right back to childhood. It made me think about my memories of scent as a child, some good and some bad.

Wonderful smells from childhood:

  • carambola fruit from the neighbor’s tree (aka star fruit)
  • the wonderful scent of gardenias in a neighbor’s yard on the way to school.
  • cookies baking in the oven at Christmas time
  • Tabu, a perfume one of the sophisticated older girls wore in high school
  • Shalimar, a perfume grandmother wore
  • chicken being fried for dinner
  • the smell of the ocean and the beach
  • the pages of a new Scholastic paperback
  • the smell of freshly mimeographed worksheets with purple ink in school (yes, I’m THAT old!)
  • turkey roasting in the oven
  • pipe tobacco in my grandparents’ living room
  • ripe mangos from our tree
  • my dad’s photography developing chemicals

Not-so-nice smells:

  • melaleuca trees in bloom (I can’t belive people use parts of this stinky tree in cosmetics under the pseudonym tea tree oil.)
  • rotting citrus fruits in the neighborhood
  • cloyingly sweet pink Avon rose perfume creme
  • mothballs (I still feel sick when I smell this vile stuff.)
  • my grandparents musty basement
  • phisoHex soap
  • mercurochrome

What were the memorable smells of your childhood?

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4 thoughts on “Childhood Scents

  1. What a good question! Smells are such powerful triggers for our memories, both good and bad. Just a whiff can take us back elsewhere in an instant.
    Good smells:
    Bread: my mom made bread nearly every week, and the smell of the rising dough and then baking bread can whisk me back to my childhood in a second.
    Leather hiking boots: my parents and I backpacked several times each summer, car camping when we couldn’t get away to backpack. My old leather Vasque hiking books, carefully waxed each year with Sno-Seal, are a really evocative smell. And yes, I still have them.
    Rive Gauche perfume: my mom’s favorite. Even after she stopped using it, her purses still smell faintly of this perfume.

    Bad smells:
    Mercurochrome: Once I rolled down a hill and into a blackberry bush, and afterward was covered with little pink dots of Mercurochrome.
    Mothballs: My mom swears by these. They’re awful.
    Wet wool: Reminiscent of rained-out camping and backpacking trips.

    Thanks for letting me delve back into memories for a few minutes!

  2. My mom wore Cabochard, by Gres and I still love that. I also love the mimeograph smell! And the smell as soon as you walk in to an old schoolhouse. I used to love voting back in Michigan, because I got to go in to my old elementary school. And I like the smell of teeth being drilled.

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