Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Can't believe I'm saying this, but, man, I am LOVIN' spring!!! This goes completely against my instincts--I am a die-hard fall/winter person. But this weird, early warm weather has forced the spring flowers into bloom, and I am surrounded with color and scent. 
I have a high sensitivity to smells. Not only do I have the immediate gut reactions of, "Oh, that smells great!," or, more often, "Yuck! Get that away from me!!," but I am also immediately transported to another place and time by certain aromas. This has been happening to me since my freshman year in college, and it's very smell-specific. 
The strongest response is linked to lilacs. One whiff of blooming lilacs, and I am once again sitting in my freshman dorm hallway, looking out the window, listening to Copland's "Appalachian Spring." This moment comes to me so clearly that I know what I'm wearing, what I'm writing on an open notebook page in my lap, and weirder still, I can actually FEEL the melancholy in my heart--the same melancholy that led me to sit in the hall at that very moment. I mean it---I FEEL it. PHYSICALLY. 

That's what's so weird about my reaction to smells. I have some sort of direct line from my nose to my memory bank, and I remember things so viscerally that I relive those emotions over and over, each time I smell that scent. The same thing happens when I smell a certain combination of damp mustiness, gasoline, and an ever-so-slight tinge of baking bread. This time, I'm standing in the "utility room" of our family's long-gone cottage. I'm a teenager; I'm about to hear the slamming of the screen door as I step out from the cool room into the warmth of the July sun. My uncle Sam is baking bread. My cousin/twin sister is waiting for me on the gravel road, so we can walk to the beach. I am THERE. 

I don't know if other people react this way. I know that I can go from laughing and happy to weeping and depressed with one whiff. Really. That's how strongly a smell can affect me. And what's really weird is that, I think I'm grateful for this. While I would prefer not to revisit some of the memory emotions I have stored away, most of these memories are sweet. They're connected to times of my life that I don't mind reliving. Even the painful times. I like to "see" the people who shared the original moments with me. I like the fleeting tingle of joy I get when I open an old dresser drawer and smell my mom's perfume, still embedded in the drawer lining. I'm once again wrapped in the embrace of my extended family when the combination of tomato sauce and cigarettes wafts into my head. It's weirdly comforting. And this spring is doing that for me. Thanks, spring.

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