Memory triggers

Today my son and I were out running some errands. In one store the background music was a tune I knew from the 1970’s, something I hear more often than one might think in malls and stores. I commented to Jared that the song was from my teen years, something I had no fond memories of whatsoever. He asked, did I mean the song or the teen years? ‘Both’ was my response.

I’ve read that, of the many things which can trigger memories from even decades ago, smell is the most powerful. I find music to be both a blessing and a curse in this regard. But among sights, sounds, smells, places, situations and all the others, what will most likely trigger a strong memory for you?

Usually around late October, when the weather starts to turn colder and the leaves fall, I remember my first fall in New England, first year of college, first year away from home. It gives me a vague melancholy feeling. It’s one of the rare times I feel that way. Pretty reliable, every fall, and I know the feeling will soon pass, so it really doesn’t bother me that much.


Smell for me for sure.

A chlorinated pool… Walt Disney World vacation with my mom at 16, our hotel room was right near the pool.

Bengay… Sitting on the couch with my grandma as a very young child.

And the most unique… Cow Manure! Reminds me of my grandfather, who I loved so much my son is named after him. He was a dairy farmer and his boots and work clothes smelled like manure when he’d come back from the barn. Everytime I smell cow manure I think of my grandfather. I may be the only person who is not repulsed by the smell of cow poop.


Songs and music - absolutely. Smells too, and also a certain weather ‘feel’ meaning the air, temperature, humidity level, etc. - everything coming together as a replica of another day/evening/time it ‘felt’ the same. All memory makers for me but music/songs are huge in my life.


The smell of diesel exhaust always reminds me of high school bank trips.



Smells seem to trigger the strongest memories with certain songs being second.

Every time I hear Paint it Black by The Rolling Stones, I’m instantly transported back to my eighth grade graduation party. Every time I smell rose water, my grandmother…who died when I was nine…comes to mind with her big hugs and pinching my cheeks and calling me a beloved Yiddish saying!

The ones that surprise me are the most fun…something triggers a memory that I didn’t even remember that I remembered! Then Wham…back to that day or occasion! :heart::heart::heart:


During the quarantine I heard the song “Double Dutch Bus” and it took me right back to my awkward junior high years


Sounds trigger bad memories for me. I cringe with sharp loud noises like fireworks, slamming cabinets or doors or even dishes banging against each other. A funny thing though is babies crying don’t bother me a bit.


My mom can’t listen to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s door”, either the Bob Dylan version or the GNR version, because that was apparently wait my uncle (her brother) was listening to when he committed suicide.


I used to have to draw babies for lab tests. Besides the fact it doesn’t feel good, they also have to be pinned down so they don’t move. Do you know how tiny their veins are!:scream:. I was teaching a new phlebotomist how to do draws on babies so, I’m drawing the baby and instructing him at the same time as this baby is screaming his head off.

Afterwards, he asked me how I could even think straight with all that screaming! I turned to him and told him that the first time he has to draw a little one that doesn’t scream, the screaming will be music to his ears. It took him a minute…then…oh! I’ve had to draw babies that come in as drowning victims, car accidents, comas, etc…a crying baby is a healthy baby…I don’t mind them a bit.

Plus, I’m a mom. We learn to tune it down a bit! :rofl::rofl::rofl:


When the weather turns cooler and there’s a slight nip in the breeze, my mind goes back to a grade school poem the Sisters of Charity would have us memorize. Even if the leaves aren’t quite changing color here in the South, I do get nostalgic for NYS fall foliage and try to recite October Gave a Party by George Cooper. I can usually get through the first stanza w/o help. I asked my brother to send me some Autumn foliage scenes and leaves from where he lives in the Catskill Mountains. He did and I received this nostalgic gift yesterday!

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P.S. Here are the leaves that my brother sent to me and how I arranged them on my mantle. Those few leaves brought back childhood memories of raking up huge piles of fallen leaves and then frolicking in the piles!

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