The Ol’ Factory of Memories

You’ve been there, haven’t you? Just walking down the street in your town and suddenly – you’re eleven years old again on a field trip: a vivid memory shocks your nervous system like a bolt of lightning. You stop dead in your tracks and look around… what was that? Where did it come from? And then you realise – some new bakery has opened up and that particular smell of bread has brought back a flood of memories from grade school. I try not to hyperbolise too much – but isn’t that reaction incredible?

We all know that smell is the most powerful of the senses when it comes to memory. Probably the most iconic scent that brings on that reaction for me is Nivea skincare products. Honestly – it doesn’t matter which product it is, as they all have that same base smell. For years I’ve used Nivea products as sunscreen and suntan lotion during the heady months of summer when I would spend hours outside, tempting the sun to burn me – even my boyfriend, a kite-surfing fanatic, would slap some on and peel off down the beach. Suncare products from Nivea during the summer were as essential to me as a morning cup of tea or a solid pair of running shoes. 

So, as scent is so evocative, I decided that using these products in winter was pretty much essential in helping me stave off the cold-weather blues. I might not be able to go out and surf until my heart is content or laze about on the beach without having to bring a scarf or a beanie, but at least that scent could bring me right back to the carefree days of summer. Much to my delight, Nivea has actually managed to bottle the scent (I’m not being paid by Nivea products, I swear!) Now, I can get it on Amazon and can be transported right back to summer without having to feel weird and sticky, stuck in my cold house while slathered in sunscreen. 

As I was busy spraying this stuff all over my house, it got me thinking about scent and memory – particularly how it can bring on powerful emotions in such a rush. The world is full of distinctive and interesting scents, so I find myself curious: what’s yours? Is it that distinctive fabric softener your parents used when you were a kid? Is it the petrichor of a storm that reminds you of the summer after high school ended? Is it the lovably disgusting scent of subway tunnels that reminds you of living in New York? What is the scent that never fails to bring back a wonderful memory that you cherish? Let me know in the comments below!