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Smell This - A blog for Meaghan Damato Hartmann

Smell This - A blog for Meaghan Damato Hartmann

I go to Connecticut exactly once a year.  My family that lives there knows that, and they have to make some serious decisions on which party they want my unparalleled social skills in attendance for.  

Related SAT Question:

  • Me having unparalleled social skills at any event that isn't in my own living room in my pajamas is to Opposite Day as _____________ is to ____________.
  1. Sweating through spanks::the opposite of sexy

  2. The Pope::wearing a funny hat

  3. A bear::shitting in the woods

  4. Chuck Norris::dividing by zero


And although this was technically the only party in the big CT on my dance card, I wouldn't have missed it for all of the whiskey sours in Cossayuna.  Some first birthday parties are more to tell the parents that you're wicked pumped that they're alive and that you love them and all that crap, than it is about watching a toddler smash cake in their face.  

But, seriously.  Kids smashing cake in their face though....right?

Oh, and my uncle cooks up a mean pork roast thing that is almost worth that I somehow missed the exit to 91 and was two-hours late.  

When it came time to leave, somewhere between shoving appetizers in my purse and scooping up my sister/brother-in-law/nieces and shoving them back in the van, I was saying goodbye to the Mom Of Honor, my cousin Meaghan.  In true Meg fashion, she cracked all of my ribs in a hug, then told me that I smelled like The Lake.  

It's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me solely because she meant I smelled like the old fashioned Herbal Essences shampoo.  And I didn't smell like "a" lake, I smelled like The Lake.  The Holy Grail for all of us on that side of the family in the way of amazing memories.

Forgiving that Meg totally called me out for being so cheap and using a shampoo that might be sold next to PERT Plus, I know what she means.  We used to all shower after a day in the lake, then line up while my mom French braided about a thousand little girl's hair so tight we couldn't sleep with eyes shut for a week, then probably ate a bag of Doritos each and roasted marshmallows that would inevitably end up lighting on fire and falling into the ash.  

That one whiff of my lion's mane brought us back to those nights, covered head to toe in DEET and Solarcaine for our 3rd degree sunburns on our 900% Irish skins, and of music and someone yelling, "CLAIRE" and saying things like, "For Christ's sake.......if not for my sake.....for Christ's sake."  I still crave Avon Skin-So-Soft bug spray when the nights get hot.

I'm a sucker for sentimental smells, which is why I'll lie and say I bought that shampoo last week just because I wanted to feel nostalgic.

In reality it was on sale, and I thought no one would notice.

Smells, more than anything else, will transport us back in time.  Like, seriously, studies have shown this across the board.  It's a whole thing.  It's something sciencey like blah blah blah olfactory bulb, blah blah direct connection to the emotion/memory center in the hippocampus and amygdala, blah blue blah, the other senses don't pass through this area...blah blah blue.

Smell can affect our moods. It can make us eight years old again on Christmas morning.  It can remind us of the time senior year of high school when we wore our boyfriend's football jersey on halloween to take his sisters trick or treating.  

He wore Tommy Hilfiger cologne and totally held my hand.

Smells are everything.  Raise your hand if you love the smell of gasoline, then ask yourself why.  Also, I just know those cinnamon broomsticks in grocery store vestibules during the holidays is a multi-jillion dollar industry.  And don't think for a second that there isn't some kind of brain/smell scientist working at Chanel...they know what's up.  To this day, Chanel No. 5 reminds me of my mom going to work.  Oh, and warm paper out of a copier reminds me of the times I'd go to work with her and have hot chocolate and file things in the wrong places.  #helpful

The memories conjured like some kind of magic come with corresponding emotions.  Memories and emotions are like a purse and matching shoes.  Or Romy and Michele on the way to the reunion.  

Remembering how great you felt that one Christmas after smelling cinnamon rolls is what keeps us all striving to recreate that magic every year.  We never quite nail it, do we?  You can't make yourself ever feel as carefree and safe as you were then, but boy howdy, do we try.  Those emotions will get ya though, no question.

Here's a list of the smells that get me good:

  • The smell when someone first lights up a Marlboro light cigarette because it reminds me of my grandmother and of the AOH Irish club.
  • The smell of cigars in warm weather because it reminds me of Saratoga Race Track with my Uncle Frank.
  • The smell of sulfur from fireworks because it reminds me of root beer floats on the Forth of July at The Lake and of my uncle, Poppy Joe, endangering our lives with any explosives he could get our hands on.
  • The smell of jet fuel at an airport and how free I felt taking my first trip to Colorado on my own in high school.
  • Mary Kay perfume because it reminds me of my time in Georgia with the infamous Shelly Boyce in 2009.
  • DeFazios.  For all possible obvious reasons.

So, here's the thing though, there's another side to this.  Remember: memories = emotions.  The stronger the former, the weirder the latter.  I read a study about a guy that would pretty much lose his mind when he was driving behind a big tanker truck.  Long story short, they did a lot of tests and therapy and all that jazz, and come to find out, he had a repressed memory about someone lighting his village on fire in Vietnam.  Oh, is that all?  Yikes.

The smell of basketball courts doesn't do anything that great for me, that's for sure.  I hate the smell of lilies because they remind me of funeral homes.  Catholics spend and impressive amount of time at wakes.  I don't exactly flock to butterscotch flavored things because I yacked once after eating half a bag of Werther's Originals.  Same thing with Jagerbombs, now that we're talking about it.  Oh God, and Goldschlager.

We all have both lists.  It's fascinating how we lean into them, trying to relive one moment, or shy away, trying to forget something that is so imprinted on the fabric of our mind meat.  Super interesting.

That's it.  It's just interesting.  No point to this blog whatsoever.  Just something to think about.

That, and Meaghan told me to write a blog about Herbal Essences.  

Challenge accepted.  

Happy you-gave-birth-day, Mo.

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