Have you ever smelled a particular odor that instantly made you think of a certain place, or some event in your past that is significant for you? Smell is a particularly strong memory trigger for me, as it is for many people. I have heard people on television who look like scientists say this, and if they are on TV, and are scientists, then it must be true. I’ll bet it even says it on the internets somewhere. A musty room odor usually brings me back to our old summer house in Leland, Michigan. The house was musty, but my summers in Leland were a very significant part of my life, so I don’t really mind that musty smell when I encounter it now. Moldy smell is quite another thing. Yech.

I know they’re in there somewhere.

I am not a neurophysicist, nor do I watch them on TV. Well, maybe one. I don’t claim to know much, only what I know. I imagine all five or six senses, or various combinations thereof, can trigger specific memories. The songs below trigger two distinct but related memories from 1992. I had recently gotten a new job after being laid off, had moved to Zion, IL (who moves to Zion?), and gotten dumped. Those were the circumstances, but not the memories.

Dream All Day – the Posies & Three Strange Days – School of Fish played often over the speakers in Gurnee Mills.

While up there in Zion, I spent a lot of time, and money, at Gurnee Mills, a big outlet mall in (not coincidentally) nearby Gurnee, IL. When I hear Dream All Day and Three Strange Days, without fail, I picture the mall and the time and money I spent up there, and that brings me great happiness. I single-handedly boosted the local economy.

Black Metallic – Catherine Wheel & Into the Fire – Sarah McLachlan played, well, often (maybe not on the station you listened to)

I always like driving with the windows open, and these songs trigger the memory of driving back from  Gurnee Mills, on a warm summer night, with the windows down. Really fast. I had a fastredcar, which was fun to drive with the windows down, really fast. Now I have a bigredminivan, and the effect isn’t quite the same. But, I listen to the songs, and they take me back to a time when I didn’t care so much about gas mileage, my credit limit, or living in the Armpit of Illinois.

What sends you back?