#163 Shampoo memories

My sister is way cooler than me.

Growing up, I was a thick-goggled nerd with solar system posters in my bedroom, Tetris blisters on my thumbs, and limited understanding of how to comb my hair.

My sister Nina was two grades below me but way above me on the popularity scale. While I was practicing my Pythagorean Theorem, she was captaining the Junior Girls basketball team. While I was taking figure skating lessons, she was going to the mall. And while I was upstairs playing clarinet scales, she was hosting parties in the basement.

I remember those parties well, too. She invited me to hang out with her friends, but I preferred watching Perfect Strangers with my mom. We would split a can of Pepsi and a bowl of popcorn and sock-slide to the front door whenever the bell bing-bonged. When Nina’s friends rushed inside, the hallway was suddenly full of deodorant clouds, perfume sprayballs, and the wafting aroma of some kid wearing too much cologne.

See, whether you like it or not I got news for you, baby: You smell. Yes, you’re some bizarro concoction of shower soap, dryer sheets, and hair spray. You’re a walking cloud of deodorant streaks, sweat stains, and perfume spray. Your closest cuddles with your closest pals will reveal your smell to them and them to you.

When you walk away from old places and disappear from forgotten scenes you might miss those little moments that come from cuddling in between. Snuggling with your boyfriend on Sunday morning, holding hands with your wife at the park, running in the basement with your sitter, squeezing Grandma in the theater when it’s dark.

Shampoo memories are distant smells of days gone by that pop back into your brain a long time later.

They surprise you in random closets, walk by you in jeans at the mall, pop out of dusty old dressers, and come back like no time’s passed at all. Shampoo memories are Grandma’s skin cream on crinkly letters, an ex-boyfriend’s cologne on new friends, shampoo memories are smells that pay you a visit, new beginnings or teary-eyed reminders of an end.

When a shampoo memory pops into your brain make sure you stop to appreciate it’s there. Because those memories built you and made you, they formed you and raised you, and that little moment gives you a chance to remember someone who helped shape your life.


Photos from: here

34 thoughts on “#163 Shampoo memories

  1. Oh my.
    They have the habit of shocking you when you least expect them to…But you have to love remembering things from middle school just by smelling someone’s shampoo :)

  2. an ex boyfriend cologne – so true.
    my ex used to wear this one deoderant, and now whenever i smell it, it immidiately reminds me of him.. — it sucks though, cause the guy in the office next to mine occasionaly puts it on & I really dont want to think of the ex!

    1. At least your soon to be hubby doesn’t wear it. I had that problem with my daugher’s father while we were dating. He wore the same cologne as my crazy ex and I hated it.

      1. I have a dress in my closet that still smells like the washing detergent that my psycho ex used back when we were together. I can’t even bear to look at the dress.

  3. I love this one.

    My best friend passed away when I was younger, and over time I was afraid if I’d forgotten all those little memories that you lose slowly, like the scent of a person’s house. One day, in a corner of my law school’s library, I smelled it… Lauren’s house. It had been many years, and it was the most welcome memory. And I am so glad I still remember.

  4. When my hubby is gone for the night, I always sleep on his pillow. It smells like him and it helps me sleep better.
    The smell of veggie soup reminds me of my grandma every time!
    There are certain smells that remind me of other things, but I can’t remember any right now. The sound of an owl reminds me of late nights at my other grandma’s house.

  5. When my son goes off to Navy boot camp, they will mail his clothes and personal effects back home. He lives with his dad, though, so I asked him to have them sent to me. He thinks I’m nuts. I just want to have his scent close by while he’s gone. ;-)

  6. Shampoo memories like creating shampoo concoctions with actual shampoo. Odd, but one of tne of the most treasured memories of my life with my own sister. :)

  7. For some reason the mixture of Johnson’s Baby Shampoo and Pantene Conditioner on my six year-old daughter smells just like I remember my Grandpa smelling. It doesn’t smell that way on my 2 year-old daughter.

  8. Aw, yeah, this one is bittersweet, especially if the memory is of someone who has passed on. It’s strange (yet scientifically proven) how memory is linked to smell.

  9. I think that if “Impulse Night Rhythms” was ever produced again, I would have a shampoo memory that would knock me back to 6th grade. And oddly, just moved in with my boyfriend and our laundry room smells just like my grandparents’ house did…

  10. I think those smells may also indicate our (deceased) loved one is with us in that moment. Shortly after I had my 2nd child, my mom and I were driving somewhere. She made a comment about how much my grandmother would have loved seeing my children, and I immediately smelled moth balls (my grandmother’s “signature” scent). I knew she was with us in the car. A little unsettling when it happens, yes, but also very cool.

  11. My dad passed away last summer and I saved his PJs so I can still smell him. Sadly, the scent is now diminishing; however, whenever I’m fortunate enough to pass a man wearing Old Spice, I’m reminded of how good my dad smelled right after he shaved.

  12. My grandmother always made cheese squares. They were these amazing cubes of bread coated with a cheese spread and baked, so the cheese got all crusty and melty. They smelled & tasted fantastic. We have the recipe, but we’ve never been able to recreate them. It’s a mystery. But every now and then we’ll make something with similar ingredients, and LOVE when the house has the smell of Grandma’s cheese squares… happiness!! :)

    1. I know just what you mean, Elysa. My grandmother was always cooking chicken for one dish or another, so whenever I cook chicken and the kitchen becomes warm with the aroma, I remember grandma.

  13. my grandmother just passed away and we’re having an afternoon tea party to honor her and every guest will get one of her old hankies (cleaned and pressed, of course) that’s been squirted with a spritz of her signature scent, “Chantilly”.

  14. When I was about nine, I was in the perfume aisle in the grocery store when my mom picked up a bottle of English Leather, sniffed it, and started sobbing right there. It reminded her of her dad, who I was never fortunate enough to meet. I didn’t really understand at the time. 22 years later, the last day of 2009, she passed away. I do the same thing when I smell her.

    On a less sentimental note, there is a shampoo that still makes me actually throw up because it was what I used when I had unrelenting morning sickness over three years ago.

  15. Such a funny post. When my Gram passed away, I remember helping my mom go through her treasures, and everyday items. I remember standing in the bathroom and smelling her bath towels. They smelled just like her. I remember thinking how I would miss that wonderful Gram smell. (Emerade perfume and rouge/blush) So I decided that I would harness that Gram smell. I tooked a few hand towels and placed them in a plastic bag…sealed it up tight. Some days I would just open that bag just enough to get a whiff. Yep, success! I can still remember how sad I was went after a few months, the Grammy scent faded. Your post brought back that memory -thanks for sharing.

  16. Today when I walked past a Tim Hortons at my university (I walked past 3 on my way from the cafeteria to my class-all in the same building!) a smell momentarily took me back to having toast for breakfast at my grandparents’ house in England. Strange considering that I don’t think there was any toast and certainly none of the jam they always had.

    By the way Neil, I would totally take figure skating lessons and practise my scales instead of hanging out at the mall and hosting parties. As Mika said in the song that I can’t stop listening to, “We are not what you think we are, we are GOLDEN!”

  17. The smell of Flex shampoo and Tropical Blend takes me back to the 70’s, being at the lake, being slightly sunburned and then showering up after a full day.

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