Do memories have a why?

Christi and I grew up in the same home but I’ll wager that she has very different memories than me. We are only a year apart, but when she was 16 and going to prom, and I was sunburned, wearing shorts with a grape Nehi stain on them, I felt a decade younger. Her date was dreamy, her dress was cotton candy pink, her lips were glossy and her smile was radiant. I remember being happy for her and very impressed. Not jealous, just wistful. I didn’t go to a prom for another 3 years.

I remember the smell of hamburgers grilling at the ninth hole snack shack and Baskin Robbins chocolate mint ice cream. The heavy pine scent at my grandparent’s house in Oregon. The damp musty smell of the cellar underneath the Franklin house, where I would play hide and seek. The creak the floorboards would make as I walked across my bedroom. Swinging from the metal spiral back staircase. The lazy summer mixture of fertilizer and chlorine by Munna’s pool. The very soft fur of Peter, the neighborhood stray cat that always came to visit me.

Powerful memories conjured up by smells and tastes. Why is this so? Why do we remember the smell of something so much more than the emotion of an experience? Or maybe we do remember the emotion, but it’s our nose that triggers it.

What triggers your emotional nose?

I don’t remember what perfume I wore at my wedding. I don’t remember the smell of the hospital room where my son was born. I don’t remember much of anything about the time when I first met Lynn. But I caught a whiff of something the other day at work that transported me in a split second to my Grandpa Ernie’s home office down the hallway of their old house in Wilsonville. It smelled like Grandpa and books, and adding machine paper. And it had a poster on the wall urging people not to smoke. Grandpa had smoked when he was a younger man and suffered from emphysema for many years before he finally passed away in 2003.

Grandpa was very special to me.

The Franklin house was very special to me.

The memory of that cat . . . well, I may need therapy on that one.

There are entire years that have vanished from my memory, yet I remember the names of obscure bands such as Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark and El Debarge. Go figure.

I have been accused of having a selective memory. If that’s the case, it doesn’t seem like I’ve selected very well.

Hmmm . . . I will have to give this some serious thought and report back to you with my findings.

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