Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bubblicious

I linked to a cherry Lip Lickers tin on eBay earlier, but this one, this one is the flavor I remember. Bubble gum! I can still smell the waxy pink just-barely-sweet scent. And the sight of that olde fashioned image of the gumball machine whacked my memory right in the funny bone.

We really need a word for what happens when a sight or smell or sound of something you haven't seen in forever just floods your mind with memory, don't we? The somewhat disgraced (but still liked by me!) Bob Greene wrote a column once where he got the people who lived in his childhood home to let him spend some time in it once again. He had a line about taking the doorknob in his hand and having the shape, the heft of it suddenly sent him spiraling back in time. I've had that shock of memory a few times in my life. In fact, maybe that's how I'm going to mentally refer to it: Memory shock.

By the way, that Bill Zehme feature I link to above, on Greene's resignation and the death of his wife shortly afterwards, is masterful. Well worth reading. And through hunting for it I realized Greene wrote a book about the death of one of his childhood best friends -- the "J" in "ABCDJ," if you read the wonderful "Be True to Your School." The book about their friendship and Jack Roth's death is called "And You Know You Should Be Glad," and I just ordered it from Amazon.

And how I found myself here via a simple post about an old lip-balm tin is one of the magical parts of blogging.

9 comments:

Rachel said...

I hear you (smell you?) on the scent memory phenomenon. Crayons can make me 6 again. There's also some kind of cleaner/disinfectant that they occasionally use in my office building that smells EXACTLY like my elementary school, and every time I smell it, I am in kindergarten again. It's such a powerful feeling, it's almost like time travel.

Anonymous said...

"The night before, he had not slept at all because the world as he knew it had just exploded. And so he'd decided to stay awake to await confirmation of his newly scorched reality, which would be dropped outside the door of his high-rise apartment unit in the form of an understated announcement in the lower left corner on the front page of the Sunday Chicago Tribune, the newspaper for which he had written a tremendously popular column for the previous twenty-four years. His hometown-sweetheart wife and his sixteen-year-old son had somehow managed to find slumber, even after he had told them the worst thing he could ever tell them; they lay in their beds letting unconsciousness temporarily obscure truth." Oh, my, God! this is horrible writing on a par with Michael Patterson's maunderings!

Athena714 said...

The sense of smell is the only sense that isn't interpreted by the brain first. Meaning, when you see something, your brain first processes then interprets what you are seeing. When you smell something, it goes directly to the memory center of your brain. This is why you can smell something and immediately be transported back to the time in your life when you first encountered that scent.

Kymm said...

In method acting, it's called sense memory, when a smell or a sound or something puts you back into the moment of a memory, and you can use your emotions in your acting.

Kristin said...

My favourite term for this when it involves smell is 'Proustian olfactory flashback,' as coined by Anne Lamott.

Amy said...

Hey, I saw that book in Borders and spent an entire morning reading it. Then I went home and e-mailed him and he wrote back! OMG. Still love him. Can't help it. Still do.

Joseph J. Finn said...

"It is, at core, a heartland Greek tragedy,"

Oh, please. It's a minor story about a newspaper columnist who had a one-night stand with the subject of a column and was fired/resigned for it. The only thing tragic about it was that the Tribune hadn't let Greene and his mawkish, self-righteous blathering go years before.

Sarah said...

There is actually a term for this, the "Proust effect." Someone earlier mentioned it in reference to an Anne Lamott book, but it goes back to this --
"Proust describes in the opening chapter of Swann's Way - the first volume of his seven-part novel, In Search of Lost Time - the taste of a madeleine soaked in tea that brings back a rush of memories; this is perhaps the most famous passage of the work. This kind of memory is referred to as 'Proustian Memory,' although Proust himself refers to it as 'involuntary memory.'"
(cut and pasted from Wikipedia)

Beth said...

I always loved Greene and I still do. I loved his writing and I had every one of his books.

I used to e-mail him now and then when his column would particularly move me, and he ALWAYS wrote back.