Wednesday, April 29, 2009

strongest senses.

[Note: I actually wrote this entry over a week ago, but my wireless at home is crap and it shut out JUST as I was going to post. And then I forgot to every post it. Better late than never, I guess.]

It is so very true that sounds and smells are the strongest triggers for memories.

It's early in the morning; I haven't slept yet. My room is a shade of purple, photos hung on the walls, random papers and books strewn about the floor and dressers. I'm typing at my laptop, working on end-of-the-semester nonsense projects.

And the birds are chirping.

Not all of them are familiar, but almost. The same sing-song chirp every few seconds from one bird, the constant warbly-like chirp from another. My first thought is to roll my eyes at the fact that this means I really should have been sleeping already. But then I close my eyes and I can remember back to hearing those chirping birds year after year.

I can remember my bright pink room, where there was no television or laptop or internet connection. Waking up to the sound of these birds, on a weekend like this, I would hop out of bed and have bagels for breakfast before spending the rest of the day out in the sun.

Or maybe I remember walking down the street and waiting for my bus on the very first day of high school, my uniform feeling foreign but special. My nerves and excitement twisted my stomach in knots, but the cool summer morning breeze relaxed me as the bus pulled up.


The other day I noticed I have a nostalgic affinity for cigarettes. My grandparents on my dad's side, my nana and pop-pop, were heavy smokers. They passed away thirteen and fifteen years ago, respectively. Almost all of my memories of them are completely gone, save for any I can conjure up when watching home videos or flipping through photo albums.

But wouldn't you know it, every time I pass somebody smoking a cigarette, I think of them. Not only that, but sometimes I crave more, almost enjoying the scent. It comes back to feeling comforted by that smell, which is somewhat unfortunate. Because they smoked so heavily, they constantly smelled of it, and that's what I subconsciously have programmed in my mind.


Smell is such a powerful memory-inducer, and I have THE MOST unusual story to back it up. This past Christmas, my mother bought candles to use as a centerpiece. They supposedly smelled of bayberry, according to the label. But one afternoon as I passed by the dining room, I caught a strong whiff, and immediately identified the scent as belonging to my uncle. I should mention that this uncle divorced my aunt, who is my mother's sister, so we don't see much of him anymore. I was basing this off of holiday gatherings from years ago. My mother refused to believe me, as did the rest of my family. I, however, was very sure of myself.

Christmas Eve came and was celebrated at my house with my mother's side of the family, and at dinner the discussion turned to the candles in the centerpiece. Despite the knowledge that I was going to sound pretty weird, I said, "you know what they smell like? Uncle Bill." And in fact, I got exactly the reaction I expected - an awkward almost-silence. That is until my cousin - this uncle's younger daughter - picked up one of them, smelled it, and said, "yeah, definitely, you're right."

It's pretty interesting to experience the smell or sound memory triggers for myself, although that last story is a combination of that and my uncanny memory for really, really random things. I recently was able to list off the names of all of the kids of my parents' friends, most of whom I met ONCE when I was very young, and could pretty much describe how we spent our time with each family. So that's the kind of information my brain deems important as opposed to all the school-related information I try to stuff in there for finals. Thanks, brain.

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