Strong Memories [NOT 4/7/22]

Hi, friends!

Are there any memories that are just kinda silly but always come back when you smell or see or hear something?

I was doing laundry earlier today and some of the wash was some new clothes I ordered from Torrid. So there I sit, using scissors to trim the tags off so I can wash these leggings and I catch a whiff and think “oh great Aunt ____.”

Friends, those leggings reeked of mothballs.

Growing up, my home stunk of cigarette smoke. One grandparent’s house smelled like stale carpet, the other grandparents’ house smelled like dogs and whatever my grandma was cooking. Literally every other family members’ houses that we typically went to smelled also of cigarettes.

That great aunt, though? She always smelled a certain way. She and my great uncle didn’t have any kids* and she always dressed nice and wore big costume jewelry. Matching jackets and purses and hats, that sort of thing. She was so cool because she looked “fancy” to kid me. She was the only lady I knew who smelled like that, so I assumed it was strong old lady perfume.

It wasn’t until I was a senior in college and my roommate needed to buy a fuckton of mothballs for something in our apartment (I don’t remember having a moth problem in that shitty apartment, but I trusted my roommate to know what she was talking about). We get back to the apartment, she opens the containers, and I blurted out something like “oh that’s aunt ___’s perfume!” and my roomie just looked askance as I realized no, great aunt just used a fuckton of mothballs to protect her nice clothes.

Anyways, smelled mothballs on those leggings and had an immediate memory of my favorite great aunt.

*I found out earlier this year from another family member that she didn’t have kids because my great uncle would get drunk and beat her up and she refused to bring a kid into that. Which was depressing as hell to learn.



  1. Mothballs, gag.

    My mother in law gave us a ton of old blankets, linens, etc. that she’d saved from her mother that had been stored for years and years with tons of mothballs

    They were completely unusable. The vinegar treatment, the sunlight treatment, nothing worked to get the gag-inducing smell out.

    There were all of these baby blankets and crib sheets and things she’d hoped our kids could use. No way. It was that bad.

    All of those years of storing these, then the effort to dig them out and bring them down, but right into the trash they went. All because of paranoia that all of the mothballs mixed in with them in the first five years might not be enough, and the dosage had to be doubled then tripled then quadrupled over the years.

    • Oh man that sucks! What a waste.

      Mostly we just tossed cedar blocks in with clothes when we stored them. Although I would suggest too that probably eau de Marlboro probably kept everything away from the clothes.

  2. For me it’s the smell of fall (rotten leaves, cold).  For a couple of years those smells would trigger some bad memories of the cokehead narcissist moving into my home.

    Not all smells cause a bad reaction for me. There are certain smells (of specific foods like baking cookies) that trigger warm memories of family past.

    • Oh shit that’s such a pervasive smell for so many weeks too. I’m sorry it was such a common smell that hits you like that.

      I had a shitty roommate obsessed with that fake vanilla carpet scent powder crap, and for a while I hated anything with a strong fake vanilla scent. But it was an ewww gross that shit reminds me of ____, not anything bad emotionally.

      • I won’t say it was a panic attack, but the first time I got a strong whiff  several months after I ejected her from my home ignited an emotional reaction (fight or flight) in me.  I kept telling myself “she’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone” to calm down.

        Note, when I was planning on being an infantry officer, I read several books on PTSD to help me prepare for it (if I survived that is.) One of the things I learned to do was not let it try to control me. It wasn’t easy and I can’t say I’m 100% successful however, the smell of fall doesn’t cause me that kind of reaction anymore. Although certain circumstances (especially on a windy cold day it can rear its ugly head) but as more of a bad memory rather than causing a psychological reaction.

  3. I never had a very good sense of smell so scents don’t trigger memories for me. Music is what gets me. I associate so many songs from various stages, places, and people in my life. Some good, some bad.

  4. When I lived in CA  and used to hike this particular trail that ended up at a high hill overlooking the PCH- I would always smell what I called “the chaparral smell”. I can’t tell you what it actually is – probably some mix of grasses, trees and native flowers. I’ve smelled it many times before including  weirdly, in my back yard lately, but it was super intense on this particular trail. Anytime I get a whiff of it – my brain flashes the beautiful view overlooking the ocean and it makes me very calm and happy. I still can’t figure out what actually makes up the scent, though.

    And on a less pleasant note – I was a costumer on the movie Wild Wild West and we had some clothes that we couldn’t clean because of the aging on them. Our supervisor decided that we should Febreze them every night. After about the third week, I was begging them to please let us send them out – that I would redo the aging myself, but they were like “no can do”. I brought in some rot gut vodka(which is what we normally used) but that wouldn’t even get rid of the smell. To this day if I get even the faintest whiff of original Febreze I start gagging uncontrollably.

  5. That is more than just unfortunate for your great aunt. There is nothing worse than a spouse beater.

    Mothball smell (and reading/hearing the word “mothballs”) reminds me of my late stepfather’s old friend’s house.

    I cannot stand the smell of lilacs. I used to love the smell but when I was 19 I picked a bunch of lilacs (because it was my gf’s favourite smell) and laid them all over my gf’s bedroom (in her parents musty basement) as part of her birthday surprises and she kept them there for so long that they started to stink. Now that stink is all I can smell even when I smell fresh lilacs.

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