Tag Archives: memory triggers

Whoops/More memory triggers

Already slacking in one resolution. Kind of. I haven’t neglected to write anything last week, but what I wrote I’ve been unable to edit into something I want to post, so I think I’ll abandon it for a little while to let it stew.

Instead, I’ll share a little something else, something slightly more superfluous. I was going to post this earlier this week, but it got really busy at work and I haven’t been able to edit it until now.

I’m a sucker for candles. Really, any good-smelling kind of things, like incense and wax, but candles were my first love as far as good-scented things go. There’s nothing quite like lighting one up and letting it burn, taking in the scent as the flame dances on the wick. So, whenever I walk by a candle aisle, I sneak a peek to see if anything catches my eye. Sometime last week, or perhaps the week before, as the fiance and I were in Target, we walked by an aisle that had a candle set up at the end of it. One in particular – Glade’s “Frosted Cookie Party” – caught my eye, and I grabbed it for a quick sniff. The scent was wonderful, but had a slightly different effect on me than I thought it would. Instead of reminding me of cookies, it reminded me of a certain toy I had when I was younger.

As far as toys went as a child, my tastes were pretty diverse. I’d play rough and tumble with my boy neighbors and their toy guns and wooden horses. I wasn’t afraid of getting too dirty, as I loved playing in the dirt and sand and making mud pies. I had quite the collection of hot wheels. I also had tons of girly dolls and Barbies. One in particular was a collection called Cupcake dolls. They had wide skirts with a rubber base that you could flip up and, along with their hat, make them look like a cupcake. They had no legs, as the rubber was sturdy enough to support their weight when they were in doll form. They had all kinds of accessories that transformed from sweet treats into practical accessories, like a banana split that turned into a vanity.

One of the really cool things about them, though, was the way they smelled. It was a light, sugary, vanilla kind of smell. It smelled exactly like that candle. One whiff and I was transported back to that bedroom in Georgia, transforming treat-looking toys into a vanity and a shower set up and a bed and a kitchen. Days of complex play, setting up chair-and-blanket forts and lining up porcelain dolls and searching for that perfect outfit combination for my Barbies and setting up a city to run my hot wheels through. My room was a magical space. And when I got a play area set up in the basement, I still remember clearly how it was like. It was the lone carpeted area in the section of the otherwise concrete-floored storage area of the basement. It smelled a little musty, but it didn’t bother me. I had a dresser or vanity of some sort that marked the border of the carpet along one end. It had a record player set up there, though I didn’t really use it. I think it was probably just set there at some point. I had a doll house there, probably some Barbie variety. My Polly Pockets, though, I kept in my room, as they were small and I worried about losing them in the vastness of the basement room (this was, of course, back in the day when Polly Pockets could actually fit in your pockets).

When we moved to International Falls, I had to cut down on a lot of my toys. I didn’t have a lot of the expensive variety, but I accumulated a lot (I was the last child my parents had, later in their life, so I had plenty of doting relatives and family friends to fling trinkets my way) and especially with the space I had to work with, it was accepting of a lot. Going from my large room with an alcove plus a basement play room to one small room meant cutting down on a lot. I ended up leaving a bunch of my toys for the children of the family that moved into our house to rent it from us, so the ones left behind were enjoyed.

Over the years, I’ve lost the vast majority of the things from the childhood between moves. Most of the things I don’t really care about, though I have lost a few things I truly regret leaving behind. I become quite attached to certain things. I’m working on letting go, because it causes me anxiety that I really cannot do anything about. Some things still nag at me, but I’m getting better at it. I’ll at least always have the memories, something will always come up that will transport me back to that little slice of magic that was my room.

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Memory Triggers – Cedar

So, one post in and I already have followers. I wasn’t expecting any aside from family and friends, but I’m more than happy to share and am grateful. Thank you. 🙂

Last night, I bent over next to my cedar-lined hope chest and got a whiff of the distinct wood. Immediately I was drawn back to the attic of a house my family lived in for a short time. It was Wausau, WI. 1999. I was 11, going on 12 that year. We had just moved there from International Falls, MN, in the dead of winter. I’ll always remember the temperature when we left, though I don’t know why…it was -34, felt like -42. Fahrenheit of course, because America uses the Imperial system. Bad weather delayed the truck in Duluth, so we had to stay at a hotel a day longer than expected. It was bitter cold when were unloading, so cold the men’s beards started forming icicles from the condensation of their breath. I huddled in a back room –  my room – with our dog until it was all over and done with and we could turn the heat on without wasting it.

I ventured up to the attic the first time that day, excited at the prospect of such a space. I’d never lived in a house with a proper attic before, so I was eager to see it. Why, I’m not sure. It just held a certain allure to me. The house in International Falls had no attic, and the only other house I’d lived in – in McDonough, GA – had a little utility attic that was only good for storage, not for doing anything with. I’d spent some time of my childhood wondering what that attic had looked like, what it held. I’d wanted to go up there, but my parents forbid it. It was probably for the best, as I likely could have gotten hurt, but it didn’t stop me from wondering. And now, in that rental house in Wausau, I was finally able to see what I hadn’t seen before, what had previously been verboten.

It was pretty nondescript, as far as attics go. It was just an open space with a built-in cedar closet. I’d never smelled cedar before, and it was very strong to me. Almost repulsive at first, though I eventually learned to like it.

I don’t remember how long I spent up there at first, but it probably wasn’t long. We had just moved in and there was lots of unpacking to do. But I visited the attic in play. At one point, I set up my little microscope kit on a desk. I even had Barbie dolls kept up there, but I’ll go into more detail with that later, as I’m now starting to get off track from the point of my post.

The point being that certain triggers can set off a cascade of memories. All of this came back from simply smelling a scent. Scent is regarded as a strong memory trigger, but there are other things, too. Voices. Songs. Even simple phrases. The more I write and write this post, the more I keep thinking of to write, so I think I will break it off here and put other memories into other posts. There’s so much that comes flooding in, it’s hard to separate everything and concentrate on a category, or even contain the category I’m in and condense it and I don’t want to turn this into a huge wall of text. If you’re still reading, thanks and congratulations for making it this far.