Memories: the smells of childhood

We all have memories from our childhood, some wonderful and some not so great. Memories are created from many experiences–including sights, sounds and yes, smells.

There’s a few distinct smells that I remember being present consistently throughout my childhood. Some, like the sewage plant that was easily smelled from the interstate in Wichita, was not such a pleasant thing. I will admit though, that I still think it’s funny that we called the sewage plant the “ca-ca factory” (ca-ca is pronounced caw caw…you figure it out!).

I can remember three smells that seemed to follow me throughout my growing up years and even now, I feel a sense of peace when I smell them.

BBQ Chicken

Now this one is a little tricky because I don’t get nostalgic every time I smell barbecue. That’s a good thing, considering I live in the South and we’re surrounded by it! But there was some way that Mom made it that had it’s own smell. She made it the “simple” way…pouring the sauce over a Pyrex dish filled with chicken then baking it. Somehow it always came out yummy!

The reason I think of this smell is it provided a sense of consistency in our home. See, Mom almost never made this meal on any other day but Monday. It wasn’t an obsessive-compulsive thing, the reason was that Monday was her house-cleaning day and by making BBQ chicken and baked potatoes, she was able to just stuff it all in the oven, set the timer, and forget about it for about an hour. It was a low-maintenance, healthy meal that we all enjoyed. When we would walk in from school and smell the chicken baking, somehow that made it all the much more “Monday.” I remember one time (I forget the reason) that she made BBQ chicken on a non-Monday and it was confusing!

Baby oil

This one is simpler to explain! For as long as I can remember, Mom has used simple baby oil to wash her makeup off at night. I have many memories of sitting on the edge of the bathtub talking to her as she removed her makeup. To this day, the smell of baby oil on a person is very comforting. It seems to promote gentleness and caring, at least in my mind.


It seems that many people have a love/hate relationship with honeysuckle. I know it attracts bees and sometimes even snakes. But for me, the smell of honeysuckle will forever represent home, especially in the late spring/early summer when it’s still mild enough that we can have the windows open.

See, we had a honeysuckle bush growing on the fence located next to the patio that was below our kitchen. There was also some honeysuckle on my neighbor’s fence on the opposite side of the house. So it seemed like whenever we would open up the many windows in our home, the entire house would be filled with the faint scent of honeysuckle. The fragrance was especially noticeable in the kitchen. To this day, I love the smell of honeysuckle and hope to have some of my own some day.

Well, there’s some of my scent-related childhood memories. What are some of yours?

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