The Magic of Sensory Memory

This month I’ve been thinking about – and experiencing – the magic of sensory memory. Have you ever smelled something that reminds you strongly of a particular memory, or perhaps a person? Maybe tasted something that reminds you vividly of an experience?

I referenced the idea of this in my book Must Love Death, and I have been experiencing it like crazy with the scent of a particular face cleanser. It reminds me of my paternal grandmother, but the strangest part is: I don’t know why! Even so, the scent of it brings me back to summers at her house, the sound of foghorns and the beauty of British Columbia with incredible intensity. Have you ever had that happen?

I’ve had it happen more often with sensory memory when I relate it to something that I’m aware of. For instance, in Must Love Death, I reference both of my grandmothers. The scent of cinnamon gum always reminds me of my paternal grandmother and at least this time I know why. She always had some one her, and seemed to always have some in her purse too. I have an old wallet of hers and to this day, it still smells of cinnamon gum. I like to open it sometimes just to remember her laugh.

For my other grandmother, the sensory memory is more related to taste. Whenever I have anything related to rhubarb, fresh raspberries, and especially Angel food cake which was one of her favourite things to make, I can’t help but think of her. I have a special rhubarb tea that I always save for the days when I just really want to feel her. Oddly enough, I was never able to share it with her, so I wonder if she would have liked it. She was sure to always have a pot of tea ready, and usually some treats too whenever anybody came by.

Have you ever had that experience? The magic of being reminded of someone who maybe is no longer with us, but who in that moment, as we experience that sense and that memory that’s associated with it, it’s almost like we feel their presence too? I’d love to hear your story if you have one.:)

Otherwise, I hope you have a wonderful July, and here’s to always being able to find the magic in the ordinary world.