The Sweet Scent of Summer Memories

Published on Fri, 05/26/2017 - 2:54pm

Have you opened a new box of crayons lately? That distinctive scent is like no other, and the moment it meets your nose, it's as if you've been transported back to second grade. The scent and the memory seem inexplicably intertwined.

Researchers tell us that specific scents can evoke powerful memories. On the farm, every season has its own distinct set of scents and associated memories, but I think the most memorable scents belong to summertime. To me, childhood summer memories come flooding back the moment I smell new-mown grass. In my mind's eye, I can see my grandfather, mowing the farm yard as he loved to do whenever he happened to be able to get his trusty lawn tractor to run (a procedure that usually required a half-day's effort and the assistance of one or both of my uncles). I can hear him calling Rocky—his devoted dog—and I can see her bounding up the gravel driveway with glee, usually dripping after an impromptu swim in the pond. (Incidentally, "wet dog" is not one of the better scents of summer.)

The scent of potato salad takes me back to my family reunions—tables overflowing with picnic fare and surrounded by crowds of distant relations. I can hear my great aunts singing around the piano; I can hear my uncle, directing the activities with an entertaining air of authority.

Even something as mundane as the scent of wet laundry can take me back to my childhood summers. My grandmother taught me to hang laundry on the clothesline, along with the little time-saving tricks for conserving clothespins. After we'd finish the laundry, we'd go pick wildflowers to dry for winter. The scent of drying tansy reminds me of those days.

And, to me, summer smells like toast. As a child, my favorite summertime breakfast was a plate of almost-burned toast, prepared to my precise specifications by my grandmother. While the toast was still hot, she'd spread a generous layer of peanut butter from edge to edge, and that creamy goodness would melt and seep into the crevices of the toast. And I would sit in her kitchen and drink milk and listen to the jovial banter of my grandparents as I soaked in the goodness of the summer and the sunshine and—yes—the sentimental scent of slightly burned toast.