Friday, May 16, 2014


This morning I stopped to take some pictures. The first set I took I parked next to a grass farm (we grow grass for seed out here, where did you think it came from?) and could smell the dirt and a slight hay back. It reminded me of my grandparent's farm. Walking through the cow pasture smelled like that.

Then a little ways down the road I stopped again and the gardeners had been out cutting the grass on the side of the road. So looking out over fields still high with growth while smelling freshly mowed grass was sort of a disconnect. It shouldn't smell like that if it's still growing, right?

And then all of that reminded me that I wanted to write a blog about odd smells and where they bring you back to so here I am.

A few months ago I was out doing something (can't remember now) and I had to use the restroom. Now as this is a blog about smells you are getting nervous, but it wasn't that smell that triggered a memory, it was the paper towels. Cheap brown paper towels. There is nothing that smells quite like them when they are wet. Add to that the really cheap toilet paper that comes in little squares. You know the box on the wall pull out a square at a time? The thin thin thin stuff? There is just a certain smell that goes with them.

So while I was drying my hands I caught a whiff of that paper towel smell and then right after it another smell. But it wasn't as strong. I couldn't figure it out. What was that? A few hours later I realized what I was smelling. It was hot eyeliner. The reason it was so faint is that it wasn't really there. It was just a scent memory. One that went with cheap paper towels.

High school.

That's the smell of a Highland High School girl's bathroom in the mid 80s. Cheap, wet, paper towels and hot eyeliner. For those of you who don't know why the eyeliner would be hot here is the 80s way to apply your eyeliner.Take out stick eyeliner. Click lighter. Hold eyeliner over flame until it starts to melt. Blow on eyeliner just enough that it won't blister going on but not enough to cool it to the point of a solid again. Apply to INSIDE of eyelid. INSIDE! With something you have just heated with an open flame! Blink back tears. Look at self in scratched and cracked mirror. Repeat with other eye.

Crazy right? I haven't smelled that in basically 30 years and there it still was.

And here is the part of that that was so odd to me. I didn't do my eyes like that. And I rarely used the bathroom at school. I am not one of those women that goes to the bathroom in a group. I have a bladder that can last a whole day without an issue. I cannot stand strong bathroom smells, like gagging can't stand. And I also had the incentive of the horror stories from my sister and her friends as to what went on in those bathrooms so unless it was an emergency I did not step foot in a bathroom at school. So four years maybe 10 times. Maybe. But probably less.

But there was the memory. I can even picture the girls doing their eyes.

And then because I was thinking about smells and school I caught a whiff of hairspray and stage makeup from the dressing rooms at the theater. Old clothes and dust from the costume storage. And then the smell of paint. Always paint. Either Little Women pink paint dust stuck in my nose for weeks or brushes in the sink that need washed, YO! Freshman! Do that!

Not to mention that the smell of a clove cigarette takes me right back to UNM and Dramafest. Why that one? Why not any of the other times we sat around smoking cloves? Don't know. But it's always Dramafest. Which reminds me of people that you would only see there. Kids from other schools whose names have faded away but I can still see their faces. And smell their cigarettes...

Now smell and memory are closely tied because of the way the brain is structured and it's completely fascinating. I highly suggest you read about it. It's amazing. But even knowing that, knowing it's there, sometimes it's weird when it hits.

Like the smell of hot eyeliner.

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