they say that smell is the sense most associated with memory


Photo: The Daily Mail

Photo: The Daily Mail

they say that sense is the smell most associated with memory
a haibun

My first day of the first year of school, way back in 1948, calls to mind the sawdust scent of freshly sharpened #2 pencils, that pungent/musty smell of cheap, tan-colored paper with pale green lines spaced so that when we wee ones wrote we could differentiate between upper and lower case letters.

We arrived sparkling clean, a cloud of Ivory soap, or, perhaps, Camay, surrounding us—hair in tight pigtails, parted down the middle with bows around the rubber-bands. I still remember that sweet fragrance of bars of blue starch melted in warm water the day before we were to return. It’s aroma lingered on stiff white fabric of the blouses of my ugly school uniform. By the end of the day, the starch had melted, the snowy fabric bore reminders of rough-housing recesses and bows hung limply, untied.

“oh, Mommy, don’t go
the sun says it’s still too warm
for me to grow up

Today, I can’t smell peanut butter, or the sulfuric scents of hard-boiled eggs that my mom packed into the metal lunch box without remembering. Over time, it acquired its own unique nose, blending assorted meals with a bit of rust. The squat thermos reeked of sour milk.

lunchbox

This morning was the first day of kindergarten here in Washoe County. We encountered a small child, sandwiched between Mommy and Daddy, clinging to them…a portrait of fear, a resurgence of memory.

“ ‘morning little one”
it’s too soon, you know, for school
summer still beckons.

Linked to dVerse Poetics where we are writing about the first day of school. Please join us.

Advertisements

59 thoughts on “they say that smell is the sense most associated with memory

  1. The haibun form really worked for sharing your memories of school.
    “the sun says it’s still too warm
    for me to grow up”…..the wise sentiments of a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The smells really made this come alive

    Liked by 1 person

  3. ayala says:

    So nice to remember the memories…and the smells that bring it all back

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kaykuala h says:

    So much fun just thinking of that particular day in history when one was left ‘alone to fend for oneself’

    Hank

    Liked by 1 person

  5. wolfsrosebud says:

    this made the senses wake up and stirred a few memories

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Abhra says:

    Aww….we have such fond memories of smell – don’t we? When I was a little boy, I had a tiny piece of garden for me and I used to grow some plant or the other – and the smell, the freshness used to bring me such joy.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh when school becomes work instead of play
    the mechanical cognition can tick
    down to robot
    minds of
    dissolution
    of human being..
    but society will just
    not work without school..
    and we must tick off
    the bad parts.. and
    continue on renew
    as this land is our
    land together
    in well
    being
    and sickness
    a Like for aLL.. NOw..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Ava Hypatia says:

    Thank you for the enjoyably sensuous, primitive smelly trip down memory lane!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sumana Roy says:

    omg…such pretty details…the parted hair, tight pig tails, the smell of eggs i remember, very closely associated with the lunch box and ma’s love…a beautiful haibun…

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sabio Lantz says:

    Fun photo and impressions

    Liked by 1 person

  11. kanzensakura says:

    I loved the smells of freshly sharpened pencils, and the still damp mimeographed tests or instruction pages. It seems someone was always throwing up in those days. the poor janitors! And the smell of chalk (no longer used)….I had a teacher that wore violet sachet. That smell takes me back as well. Good form on this!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. lynn__ says:

    Powerful writing how you describe school memories associated with certain smells, Victoria; you’ve captured the reluctance as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh my. With mechanical pencils my preference these days, I had nearly forgotten the “sawdust scent of freshly sharpened #2 pencils…” Thank you for this. And for reminding me that school starts back up soon (peaceful daytimes ahead once again for me)! 😉 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It was nice to reminisce with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. How this took me back. Schools STILL smell of egg sandwiches!!!!! The pigtails, the bows….I especially love “Mommy dont go. The sun says it’s still too warm for me to grow up.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. What a wonderful trip down memory lane with the scents — good and bad — that bring those memories to mind. Peace, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Grace says:

    I know what you mean about smells Victoria…your post just triggered my own school memories with the pens, books and uniforms pressed with starch ~ I pretty much lost all of my stuff so its nice to see that you kept metal lunch box ~

    Liked by 1 person

  18. welshstream says:

    There’s some wonderful images here and like the way you use the sense of smell to capture schooldays. They are so evocative and instantly whip you back so many years.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. MarinaSofia says:

    Excellent use of the haibun – works perfectly in this context. And I remember all of those smells – thank you for the reminder, you really transported me there. And your wistful haikus are just the perfect summing up – too soon, too soon…

    Liked by 1 person

  20. claudia says:

    oy the smell…yes… you brought back some memories with this… the scent of the stuff they cleaned the school floors with.. i can smell it til today

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Enchanting memories, and poignant senryu. I agree that memories are frequently triggered by scents.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Olfactory memories are some of the strongest, relative to every aspect of life, from outhouses, to barns, to kitchens, to basements, to attics. I adore any type of haibun; cool to see 2 haiku placed amidships. Haibun , for me, is the most dynamic of forms.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. X says:

    The two smells I associate with school – pencil shavings and that pink sawdust they put down when someone puked. Ha.
    Now in high school there are certain smells – beyond the plethora of perfume/cologne – of bodies changing.
    ah, I was ready to go back.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Gabriella says:

    I marvel at how much you remember, Victoria. I started school at the age of 3 and do not remember a thing. I have later recollections though. The haibun form works so well here and I think the haiku provide great commentaries on the prose.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Oh yes.. to leave the summer for the confinement of summer, the constriction of the lines.. love your sentiments, though the smell I associate is more a certain kind of dusty smell that lingers in a house that have been standing empty for many months.. the smell of pencils, yes I remember that too, though we used 2 1/2, maybe because they lasted longer..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, there is that unoccupied space smell, isn’t there? Our county has gone to year round school years so the poor kids had to go back last week. But they get fall, winter and spring breaks too–about 3 weeks I think.

      Like

  26. Mary says:

    I do remember still the first day of my 4-year-old kindergarten. I held my mother’s hand tightly and did not want to stay. The teacher, with her kind eyes, beckoned me…and I stayed…but I know that it was still “too warm for me to grow up.” And still…it is too warm…I still have a bit of sadness when a school year begins. Time marches on, and summer still beckons! Your poem triggered some memories for me, Victoria.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know what you mean by that sadness–I guess it’s a sort of benchmark as we tick off the years of our lives. Part of mine is that I would love to be going back to school–I’m one of those people addicted to learning, and that’s why I love “The Teaching Company’s Great Courses.”

      Like

      • Mary says:

        Never too late, Victoria! Why don’t you check out Yale Online Classes. There are some excellent ones there — for free. Just recently went through the entire New Testament with a master teacher. Think you might enjoy that. Videos are EXCELLENT.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve done some of those, too. Problem is, when they are streaming, I have problems finding time to do them. With the CD’s I listen as I do my exercises. I have a terrible time sitting still, which is just what I’d be doing if I went to class.

        Like

  27. scillagrace says:

    Did you mean “smell is the sense most associated with memory” or did you switch smell and sense on purpose? Just wondering. The first thing I smelled when I walked into Steve’s place was old books and wood, which immediately took me to my grandmother’s cottage. I was hooked!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, thanks for catching this. I know I have number dyslexia but may my issue extends beyond that. I have corrected it though. Funny how you see what you expect to see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Aquileana says:

        Excellent post!~ I thought of Marcel Proust and his book “Remembrance of Things Past” with the well known madeleine cake episode, which introduces the theme of involuntary memory, in which the narrator remembers having a similar snack as a child with his aunt and it all leads to more memories of Combray, an old town…
        The overall idea on Proust’s book is that involuntary memory is related to catching the “essence of the past”, somehow!…
        Thanks so much for sharing!. Best wishes. Aquileana 🐱 –

        Like

Your comment and feedback are important to me. Thank you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s