The Scent of Childhood


It is said that smell is best memory trigger of all the senses.

I believe it.

So many people know the exact smells that bring them back to their favorite places and memories from childhood…

 Grammy’s perfume

Hamburgers on the grill

Sunday morning cinnamon buns

But for the longest time I didn’t know my special smells.

What’s your favorite smell from your childhood and why?” is a favorite question for those silly icebreakers they make you participate in during orientation, or when you have a group of people who don’t know each other well. Because I didn’t know the answer, I’d always have to make something up:

‘Oh how I love the smell of pink roses is the springtime! My mom would always braid them into my hair as a child!’

Total BS of course… but I couldn’t go looking like some ignorant person who doesn’t even know what her favorite smell is! People would’ve thought me an unfeeling snob!

I have now come to the point of figuring out the two scents that bring back my strongest childhood memories. No ignorant girl here! I am so prepared for icebreaker games now.

My smells of childhood are deisel fuel and trailer park.

Yes, I had a wonderful childhood, thank you very much! Just because the scents of my childhood weren’t flowers, chocolate chip cookies, and fairy dust, does not mean I am a subpar human. I have some very wonderful memories linked to those special smells.

Deisel fuel. My grandparent’s van ran on deisel (and still does). It’s an 18 passenger with all of the seats taken out except for driver and passenger. They need room for their camping supplies, tools, and whatever else they end up hauling around for people. As kids, it was super fun for my cousins and I to ride in the van, whether we were going to the dump, the House of the Waffle, or to an amusement park. The best seat was on “the box”, a little wooden compartment between the two seats, where grandpa kept his reading glasses, napkins, and if you were super lucky- peppermints. One had to be super careful when sitting on the box, it had a clipboard attached to the top, and no one likes to have clipboard clip all up in their crotch. The rest of us cousins, who were not fortunate enough to rest our behinds on the box, piled in the back of the van. Sometimes there were fun boxes of tools or ropes to play with. We liked to tie them around our waists and pretend they were seatbelts. We weren’t allowed to play with Grandpa’s saws, which was terribly disappointing at the time, but in hindsight was probably a smart idea… Grandma and Grandpa never had to turn the radio on in the van; us kids just sang instead. To the Dump, On Top of Spagetti, and The Song That Never Ends were our favorites.

As you can see, deisel fuel is a very positive scent for me that signifies family love, good times, and innocence.

The scent of ‘trailer park’ is a little harder to explain. See not all trailer parks smell like ‘trialer park’, and some places that are not trailer parks smell like trailer park. Like that sketchy gas station Chaela and I stopped by last week on our way home from Charleston, its bathroom smelled like trailer park.

I have nothing against trailer parks or trailers by the way. I think they’re  a great and cost efficient place to live.

My parents own a trailer park. When I was a kid I would help clean the trailers to prepare for new residents. Sometimes I would calk, paint, lay down linolium. Now I am grateful for the experience, time with my parents, and lessons of work ethic. Back then I just wanted to get out of there! It smelled like trailer park.

Maybe the smell of trailer park is really the smell of stale cigarettes or roach killer…

(Go rent from my parents. They have new trailers that don’t smell like that now…)

— So there you have it. My honest to goodness childhood scents. What are your favorite scents from your childhood?


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