Memory and Smell

I just had one of those intense memory experiences. They say that smell is the most important sense for most mammals, and I think I believe that. I went past a fountain on campus and it smelled like chlorine and suddenly I was transported to the Provo swimming pool dressing room. I could see it vividly. I could see myself as a child with my swim suit wrapped in a towel and held together with a tight rubber band. I remembered how sometimes I had a nickel to spend in the vending machine outside the pool, and how much I liked buying “Root Beer Kegs” (which I haven’t seen in years). It was wonderful and sad simultaneously–it was a very happy memory, but there was a sense of sadness that the moment and I were separated by at least 45 years. Poignant longing is perhaps the best description–and a real sense of gratitude that I was blessed with a happy childhood (and a mother who was absolutely obsessed with having her children learn how to swim–since she couldn’t!)

The whole experience reminded me that it is time to read James Joyce’s story, “The Dead,” which I honestly believe is the best short story ever written–and evokes the same type of feeling I had today. I read it once a year at least to remind myself of my humanity.

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