Last Wednesday at 9:52pm
L: my throat hurts
L: can’t decide if it’s sore
L: or dry
L: but it definitely hurts
A: ugh, when did this start?
L: last night
L: trouble is
L: everything feels like a covid symptom
L: a sniffle
L: a headache
L: it’s hard to discern what’s real
A: except the loss of smell
A: that seems to be unique
A: but i have a terrible sense of smell, in general
L: omg me too
L: what if we get covid
L: and don’t realize it
L: bc we don’t know that we lost our sense of smell
A: good night, laura
So, anyway, this minute, in between discussions about the inauguration and vaccination timelines, we’re stuck on smells. Complex, vivid, sometimes even emotional smells.
Laura could never smell a dirty diaper or the food-gone-bad in the fridge. Angie can’t smell the overflowing garbage or the burning dinner. And we both kinda thought it was no big deal. We agreed that if we ever had to choose one sense to lose, see ya later sense of smell.
Last Thursday at 2:42pm
A: so i just got a box of my grama’s things in the mail
A: some old jewelry, old purses, even an old fur coat
A: and ready for the best part?
A: i’m sitting here
A: with her things
A: all around me
A: and they smell like her
A: i can smell her
A: it’s like i’m with her
A: crazy? creepy?
L: says the girl who keeps one of her mom’s blouses in her closet
L: bc it still smells like her
L: guess i’ll see your fur coat and raise you a blouse
A: we play poker now?
Turns out, smells can transport you. Smells can remind you what it felt like to lie on your mother’s bed as a little girl with a slight headache from your too-tight pigtails. Or sitting on an uncomfortable wooden stool in your grandmother’s kitchen while she fried perfectly sliced potatoes in ridiculous amounts of oil.
Turns out, smells can trigger memories. The smell of lilacs may remind you of the time you rode your sparkly purple banana-seat bike to the 3rd grade spelling bee and parked it at your elementary school and lost the blue ribbon because you misspelled the word weasel (and you’re still pissed to this day). Or how you can recall the smell of your childhood best friend’s home and feel like you’re back in 1986 helping her clean her room while dancing to Steve Winwood’s ‘Higher Love’ so she could go out on Friday night.
Turns out, smells can even give you the gift of a little visit with someone who isn’t with you. A mother or grandmother who passed. A friend who doesn’t live nearby. Your grown-up child who has gone to college or moved out of the house.
Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to give up this sense in a hot second.
Unlike the other senses, smells often strike us in a visceral way.
Different than looking at a photo.
Different than hearing a nostalgic song.
Smells seem to unexpectedly hit us in the gut.
Not sure why, but they do.
And here’s the undeniable irony.
We’re recognizing the power of smells and their complexities at a time when the hallmark symptom of the all-encompassing pandemic is loss of smell.