The smells of childhood

February 12, 2010

Do you ever have the experience of smelling something and having a vivid remembrance from childhood?  I do.  And David Owen has just written an article in the January 25, 2010 issue of The New Yorker entitled “The Dime Store Floor: What did childhood smell like?”

Owen puts in neatly:  That at a certain point certain “products ceased to be used, as the fasion for fragrances changed.  If one had known, at that age, about the accelerating grind of time, one could have bought a few bottles and placed them on a shelf somewhere, for later sampling and contemplation – once each spring, perhaps, or during the final moments of life.  Yet how could one have guessed?”

Amongst the smells of my youth is one that I almost kept:  a men’s perfume (called “cologne”, in the parlance, I believe) called “Hawaiian Surf”, and it came in a glass container surrounded by a lovely cork outside.  I was given it (by whom?) at about age 13 and kept it – in my childhood home in New Jersey in the USA – until my sister and I dismantled our house after our father died.  Not all that long ago.  That’s a pretty long time.  And that’s about the one thing which I regret not having taken from the house – a smell, of all things.

This not so odd:  Owen writes about how he started using “Old Spice” because that’s the kind of deodorant which his father had used.  And apparently the “Classic Original Scent” is even pitched at people who remember it from their youth.