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Triggering memories

Maister

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The recent spate of memory-related threads has got me to thinking - What sorts of things trigger powerful memories for you? I've heard it said that memory's strongest visceral associations are through our olfactory senses. I don't know if this is true for everyone or not but personally I know that there are certain smells that take me back instantly. I think our vocabulary is poor in some respects with regards to describing smells, but I know there's this certain humid pine-ish smell that transports me to the Carolinas whenever I get a whiff (I hadn't encountered it for almost 20 years but smelled it while on a walk through my neighborhood the other night and it was like POW instantly there I was in New Bern, NC). There's also this sort of moth ball-like astringent smell I will always associate with childhood memories of visiting my grandparents house.
Certain songs still take me back although this has diminished considerably since the explosion of 'classic rock' radio.
 

Dragon

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There is a certain perfume an ex of mine wore at one point in time. There have been occasions where I smell it, and instantly think back to her, and wonder if that is her nearby. Then I recall how much I now dislike her, and go back to what I was doing.

Also, whenever I smell burning leaves, it reminds me of being outside doing yard work with my dad, in which we raked the yard and burned the pine needles and leaves.

There are others, but those two stand out the most because they've happened a few times.
 

Maister

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Dragon said:
There is a certain perfume an ex of mine wore at one point in time. There have been occasions where I smell it, and instantly think back to her, and wonder if that is her nearby. Then I recall how much I now dislike her, and go back to what I was doing.
.
I completely forgot about that. Yes, there are two types of perfume that instantly trigger memories of my very first girlfriend and a far more dubious liason a few years later.
You know, it's funny - I can remember hearing a song and can 'hear it' in my head, I can remember seeing certain sights and 'see it' in my head, I can remember smelling certain aromas but am unable to 'reexperience' the smell in the same manner that I do with sights and sounds.
 

tsc

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smells always trigger memories... I always kinda chuckle whenever I smell diesel exhaust on a cool morning about.. 50 degrees... I immediately get transported to Rome, Italy.

This time of year where I live now ... the smell remind me of being on vacation... on Cape Cod or Jersey shore years ago. Upstate NY has such a rich earthy smell.

I love the smell of the cabin of the boat... that fiberglass smell reminds being on water.
 

Richmond Jake

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Untriggering memories

At this point, I'm more interested in avoiding anything that triggers memories. :-\
 

boiker

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the smell of crayons, playdough or any other non-toxic kids art tool reminds me of my childhood.

The smell and taste of "lik-em-aid" takes me back to when i was young and walked over to the local men's softball field refreshment stand.

That "old people house smell" when house hunting, reminded me of my great-grandmothers old house.

Hot, humid, breezy days reminds me of my grandparents farm in central illinois sitting on lawn chairs under a shady tree
 

Dragon

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Maister said:
You know, it's funny - I can remember hearing a song and can 'hear it' in my head, I can remember seeing certain sights and 'see it' in my head, I can remember smelling certain aromas but am unable to 'reexperience' the smell in the same manner that I do with sights and sounds.
Now that you mention it, I remember listing to Alan Parsons Project a lot when I was reading some Steven King book, and now whenever I catch one of those songs I instantly recall the book. Other songs that were played a lot during my past vividly remind me of specific situations when I hear them today.

I was on the MS coast for a conference a few weeks ago, and one night I went down to the beach, and the smell of the beach and the saltwater brought back a flood of memories of my life there (I grew up around there). It made me home sick.
 

Jen

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Whenever i smell bus fumes, I think of the days I used to catch the bus to the beach
 

pete-rock

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There are a lot of songs, Top 40 songs, from about 1981-83 that trigger all these feelings of confusion in me. I was pretty much an R&B/soul music guy prior to that, but moving from Detroit to Muncie, IN decreased my exposure to that and increased my exposure to Top 40 and country. And I'm sure the confusion comes from that uncertain and insecure feeling I had then.
 

Gedunker

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Apple pectin shampoo. Can you still get that stuff? Takes me right back to her arms, then she's ripping my heart out, stomping it and walking (not running) off with that durned jerk. I hate apple pectin shampoo |-)

That first whiff of salt water, the glimpse of white sand along the edge of the road and I'm back in Monmouth County on the way to the Hook, or Ventnor/Margate. Ahhh, sun burn!

Alan Parsons Project! Absolutely, but let's not go there ;-)
 

Super Amputee Cat

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Smelling sun tan lotion always reminds me of being in Daytona Beach, 1990-92.

And musty t-shirts remind me of the cheap hotel I stayed in there!
 

SW MI Planner

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Jen said:
Whenever i smell bus fumes, I think of the days I used to catch the bus to the beach
I think of leaving for Cedar Point super early in the morning!

Guns N Roses = ex butthead boyfriend back in high school

Burning leaves = Memorial Weekend camping trips and canoeing up north.

There are tons more, but none that I can think of right now. That is why it's so crazy. It just HITS you when you smell it, or hear it, but not until then.
 

Super Amputee Cat

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Maister said:
You know, it's funny - I can remember hearing a song and can 'hear it' in my head, I can remember seeing certain sights and 'see it' in my head, I can remember smelling certain aromas but am unable to 'reexperience' the smell in the same manner that I do with sights and sounds.
I know what you mean. Songs have a certain "aura" to them that intensifies memories only when that song is playing, and instantly disapates when the song is over. For example, Manfred Mann's Blinded by the Light will always remind me of being at my friends birthday party in January 1977 and Van Halen's Dance The Night Away takes me back to my scout trip to Algonquin Provicial Park in Ontario during the summer of '79.

What I am doing now to take advantage of this, is make my own "soundtrack" for any trip I take that lasts more than a week. It can be one CD or tape, or a bunch of songs I downloaded from Napster or Kazaa. During the trip, I'll play that CD over and over again, and then not play it for several months. Whenever I hear one of those songs thereafter, it takes me to certain parts of that trip that I had otherwise completely forgotten about. More powerful than that though, it captures the "spirit" of that vacation and enhances the memory of it in abstract ways that cannot easily be explained. I highly recommend trying it next time you go on a trip.
 

tsc

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Gedunker said:
Apple pectin shampoo. Can you still get that stuff? Takes me right back to her arms, then she's ripping my heart out, stomping it and walking (not running) off with that durned jerk. I hate apple pectin shampoo |-)

That first whiff of salt water, the glimpse of white sand along the edge of the road and I'm back in Monmouth County on the way to the Hook, or Ventnor/Margate. Ahhh, sun burn!

Alan Parsons Project! Absolutely, but let's not go there ;-)
...
my destination was Chadwick... every summer during the 70's
 

otterpop

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We bought a house a few months ago, so finally I have a place where I can have my stereo (without the rugrat trashing it). I've been listening to my old records (yes, records) that I haven't listened to for maybe eight years. ZZ Top, Yes, Traffic, Pink Floyd, and King Crimson. I've been experiencing a lot of nostalgic feelings, as well as memories of old friends, good times, and those days of affordable pot. :-D
 

giff57

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I get memories from by youthfull dirt bike days when the guy next door mows his lawn with his Lawn Boy. Ahh the smell of burned two stroke oil on a chilly day.
 

jestes

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The smell of rain on a hot summer day...
The smells of the newness of spring...
The smells of (real) fried chicken coming from a kitchen...
The smells of pork loin on a slow smoker...
and the smells of a farm pond in the spring when the bream and bluegill are making little fish babies...

All of these smells bring back memories of different times and places in my life.

As far a music is concerned, there are certainly songs that evoke a variety of memories and emotions...some good, some not so good. There was a particularly tough time in my career when for some reason I listened to John Fogerty's Blue Moon Swamp CD over and over again. Now anytime I hear a song from that CD it brings back sad and depressing thoughts.
 

boiker

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Super Amputee Cat said:
<snip>
Whenever I hear one of those songs thereafter, it takes me to certain parts of that trip that I had otherwise completely forgotten about. More powerful than that though, it captures the "spirit" of that vacation and enhances the memory of it in abstract ways that cannot easily be explained. I highly recommend trying it next time you go on a trip.
ya.. like when I took my 4 yr old and 1 yr old up to wisconson in the fall last year, we listened to a Thomas the Tank Engine CD ALL TRIP. Everytime I hear that CD all I remember driving in the car, visiting Mineral Point, WI and the appreciating the fall colors.
 

Maister

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SW MI Planner said:
I think of leaving for Cedar Point super early in the morning!
Must be a SW MI thang. I experience the same association with early morning and Cedar Point (it was a ninth grade class trip).....even though I haven't been there in over 20 years.
 

biscuit

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There's a crisp smell of wet wood I detect sometimes at the river front that reminds me of going down the Thunder River water ride at Six Flags Over Georgia when I was a kid. We always took a couple of weekend trips to Atlanta every summer when I was younger, and going to Six Flags was always the highlight for me. Aaaaah... good memories.

There's also a certain powdery scent (I think it's from some kind of perfumed soap) that reminds me of my Grandmother. I remember visiting her when I was little and her bathroom smelling just like that. Weird, I know.
 
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Last weekend, I drove to Ithaca, NY for may cousin's graduation. As I was driving on I-81 in PA, I saw a sign for Godfather's Pizza at Exit 159. Godfather's started in Omaha as a local chain and is basically based in the western Midwest. When I saw that sign, I could basically taste the Supreme! :-} However, it was too early in the morning to stop for pizza. :-\
 

Tom R

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huh?

RichmondJake said:
At this point, I'm more interested in avoiding anything that triggers memories. :-\
I'll take anything that WILL trigger a memory.
 

Zoning Goddess

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The smell of dead skunk and paper mills remind me of all the (off-interstate) road trips our family took around the southeast.

Gomer Pyle reminds me of my parents' fancy dinner parties when I was a kid; come to think of it, so do chocolate shakes and sloppy joes. We 3 kids were sent to mom and dad's room in our p.j.'s, having been stuffed with shakes and joes prior to the guests' arrival, to watch t.v. for the evening. Gomer always seemed to be on then.

Today my aunt (84) and uncle (89) came up from Tampa with one of my favorite cousins driving them, for my nephew's high school graduation. We spent a lot of time playing "remember when....?".
 

JNL

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RichmondJake said:
At this point, I'm more interested in avoiding anything that triggers memories. :-\
Well, all these "sensory memories" people are describing, are associations. And you can change them. Sometimes we avoid a certain restaurant, for example, because we had a fight with an ex there, but if that's the only reason you avoid it, maybe you can go back with different people, and create a new, more positive memory. The old memory won't be lost or overwritten but a new one will be added and the negative association will be weakened. There are memory tools you can use to change, replace, or "wipe" certain memories if you really want to.
 
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