Our sense of smell is our most powerful sense and smell and memory are closely linked, probably more so than any of our other senses. Those with full olfactory function may be able to think of smells that evoke particular memories; the scent of an orchard in blossom conjuring up recollections of a childhood picnic, for example. This can often happen spontaneously, with a smell acting as a trigger in recalling a long-forgotten event or experience. This is because the olfactory nerve is located very close to the area of the brain that is connected to the experience of emotion as well as emotional memory. In addition, the olfactory nerve is very close to the hippocampus, which is associated with memory; thus, the experience of the sense of smell evoking a memory. In addition to being the sense most closely linked to memory, smell is also highly emotive. The perfume industry is built around this connection, with perfumers developing fragrances that seek to convey a vast array of emotions and feelings; from desire to power, vitality to relaxation.
As for myself, whenever I catch the scent of lilacs blooming in the spring, it reminds me of my Grandma Kramlinger. Grandma kept a beautiful garden, and her lilac bushes were her pride and joy. She not only had lilac-colored bushes, but also white, blue, dark purple, lavender, and pink. The blossoms were fragrant and cheerful, and as soon as you came upon her house, the aroma would drift all around you, assailing your senses with the sweet smell of springtime.
I have such lovely childhood memories of Sundays when she would arrive at our house for Sunday dinner. Her arms would be laden with lilac blossoms, and she’d say to my mother, “Here’s something to grace the table.” Mom would take the lilac flowers and fashion them into a lovely bouquet, put them into a vase filled with water and place them in the center of our dinner table. And there they would stay throughout the week, a reminder of Grandma, until the next Sunday when she came to visit again with fresh lilacs to replace them.
Now whenever I catch the scent of lilacs in the springtime, I wonder if the lilac bushes still bloom in her garden, and if the people who live in her house now are still appreciating their cheerful blossoms and simple beauty and enjoying their sweet fragrance.