Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Memory Flash Dance - Part 2

The whole thing that got me thinking about sensory memory triggers was something that happened this last Saturday - which I was going to write about but got distracted with stuff from the Saturday before that. (Gah! So many things to write about, so little time!)

Well, anyways... here's some examples of things that remind me of other things.

One of the strongest smell triggers for me is Olay Age Defying Daily Renewal Cleanser. (Can never be to young to defy the tricky Age Monster, right?) If I use this face soap often, I become familiar with the smell and it looses its memory flashback mojo. But if its been awhile, the smell is not in my current mental banks, so my mind leaps back in time to the first time I used it, the first time I smelled that heavenly smell...

It was during the first few days I was away from home, away at college (college being, after high school, the next stop in the road trip to Grownup Land). I'd never had face wash stuff before, stuff that was specially purchased for the use of cleaning my face and nothing else. And there I was, using the ultimate in grownup beauty care products. And oh that smell! It was so exotic compared to the plain generic soap my mom usually bought. This was serious stuff. This was grownup stuff. :) I've tried other fancy face soaps but this is the one I always go back to (and currently use). The smell of it has this sort of aroma therapy effect on me. It's intoxicating. The other day I bought some Olay body lotion, which smells very similar, just so I can smell my arms at random times of the day. *sniiiiiiiiiif* ahhhhhhh. That's good stuff. Its become a very comforting smell over the years.

One of the strongest sound triggers for me are songs. Some songs are associated with several memories. Sometimes when I hear Leaving On A Jet Plane, I remember riding in the car with my mom on our way to the beach, the Peter Paul and Mary tape blaring over the speakers, and the two of us singing at the tippy-most-toppest of our lungs. Sometimes when I hear that song I remember the time me and a former girl roommate sang the Armageddon soundtrack version of this song - at the top of our lungs - while the boy roommates stared at us like we were a couple of nutballs. And sometimes, like just now, I remember when I sang this song karaoke style. Not at the top of my lungs, but now that I come to think of it, that probably would have improved the quality of the singing.

One song that always triggers the same memory for me is Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. And its getting to the point of Annoying because they play this song on the radio all the time here, so the same memory keeps poping to mind every single time. Not that it's a bad memory, it's just... enough already!!!

The memory that gets triggered is the xmas when I was a pre-teener (can't remember the exact age). My cousin had flown home for a visit, and he'd brought an old high school friend along with him to the family festivities. And boy was that friend cute. Before dinner he sang Brown Eyed Girl on his guitar for everyone. I was at a very impressionable age you see, one where I no longer thought boys were completely icky, and one where I began to understand the age old equation:

Guy + playing guitar + singing = HOTNESS

I remember thinking 'if only I were a few years older... maybe then he'd notice me.' *sigh* So obviously that memory will be etched in my brain forEVER. :) Sometimes, after the first memory flash, this song also reminds me of my first college roommate. She had this song on tape and would play it every now and then, and we'd stop whatever we were doing, jump on the beds and serenade the whole dorm floor with our awesome sing-along abilities. Others would join in, because you can not not sing along with Brown Eyed Girl.

A taste memory trigger for me is chicken soup and 7up. When I was a little kid, those two things were pretty much my diet any time I was sick and upchucking. Now that I'm older, I can't have either without it reminding me of being upchucky. Less so, the older I get and the further from that childhood sick diet I get, but still... bleagh to chicken soup and 7up.

What started this whole reflection on how certain sense recognitions send the brain into Memory Retrieval Mode was something that happened this last Saturday. I was at work, putting in a half day to get in a few 'hey no one's here to bother me so I can concentrate on this and nothing else' hours for this project me and a coworker are working on. Some Pepsi was left over from the St. Patty's Potluck Extravaganza so I poured myself a cup and saddled up to the computer. I drank half the cup while it was still cold, leaving the rest to sit there and achieve room temperature status and become less fizzy (not by choice really, I just got in a groove and forgot all about the remaining sips of soda. A travesty, I know my fellow soda lovers.) An hour or so later I took a sip and the warm, flat taste of the Pepsi triggered a strong memory flashback. And wow, what a punch it had!

An image of the lake, the one just east of where I grew up, flashed before my eyes. It was so... real. So... vivid. It was like I was there man! Totally bitchin, totally drug free experience. Seriously.

I didn't go up to the lake often, but when I did it must have been with cans of Pepsi. :) No one particular memory stood out so I guess the lake and warm, flat Pepsi must go hand in hand together in my brain. Or maybe I just drank a lot of warm, flat Pepsi during my childhood, which is when most of my trips to the lake trips occurred, and my brain just did a trampoline jump over several close connecting memories and landed at the memory at the end of the line. That silly brain of mine, it was playing Six Degrees of Separation with my memories! As I sat there that Saturday and reflected, taking what I figured was a much needed break, I could remember the smell of that lake, the smell of fish and motor... er... liquid-y stuff (oil or gas or something else fume-y). I could remember the dirty color of the water, the yellow grass covered hills that surrounded the lake, the teeny tiny houseboat my grandpa had, the texture of the wooden bench I sat on and the plastic covering at my bare feet. I can remember how good the cool water felt on those hot summer days, despite all the creepy crawlies I imagined were swimming along side me. Most of all I remember the overall serene feeling I had being out at the lake, and the warm fuzzy feeling of being with relatives on a perfectly sunny day when there were no plans other than barbequing dinner later that night.

Damn. Never thought I'd actually miss that dirty smelly lake. :)

1 comment:

  1. on of the strongest stink memories for me is Sea Breeze. The astringent. It makes me think of the summer before I turned 14, going back to colorado to visit my grandma, sitting in my friend lynn's bedroom reading seventeen for the first time. i left my home a little girl, and i came back washing my face with noxema and following it up with some sea breeze.