The day started like most others … except that my sister and her son were at my home visiting. As her visit visit came to an end, her nine-year old son started carrying things down the stairs and loading up them things in the car for the trip home. He appropriately decreed it'd be good to not forget mom's purse, so included that among his load of goods. Apparently, he dropped it, because suddenly an expensive bottle of perfume found its way out of the purse and shattered on the unfinished wooden staircase. Needless to say, the event was perfumed with an incredible scent … and continues to be to this day. Every time we walk anywhere near those stairs, we remember the amazing ability of perfume to establish strong memories.
Over the course of my life, I've noticed that fact numerous times. Our minds are capable of, and often do, remember smells in connection to events. Take for instance when I was pregnant with my first baby. The smell of toast turned my belly into a whirling mess of nausea. Of course I avoided the smell for all I was worth while trying to keep what little I could eat, down. What amazed me though was even after my gorgeous daughter arrived and my nauseous pregnant belly no longer exhausted, the aroma of bread toasting in the toaster was enough to make that pang of nausea rear its unnecessary head again.
Smells are unavoidable parts of all kinds of memories – the smell of fresh rain after a terrific thunderstorm, the glorious aroma of fresh baked bread at Grandma's house, the stench of that cute little black and white bundle of fur you tried to pet when you were a kid, and the nose-splitting shock of walking down a street in Calcutta where the sewage flows freely along the path with you. Sometimes perfectly good memories can be totally ruined by one awful smell – like the aroma of a hug from your very missed boyfriend after he came home from a 3 week long camping trip (with nare a shower)!
We can use these smell memories to our advantage though! Some romantics remember to put on their sweetheart's most favorite perfume or cologne before heading out to give their marriage proposal. That special fragrance can gel the whole experience into their minds with an extra special fondness. Mothers will often use an item of their like like a shirt or pillowcase with their "mommy scent" on it to give to a young child for extra security when they have to be away.
Gifts that incorporate fragrances often are remembered for years to come – a tin of butter popcorn or a gorgeous bottle of designer perfume. Cologne or perfume actually can be a gift of significant importance, such as the lovely perfume Mary poured out on Jesus' feet. That fragment story has been shared for centuries! Imagine if Mary had decided to not give the gift of expensive perfume but had used plain water instead. The entire story would have a lot less telling-power.