What is the scent of your childhood?

8 Jan

A strange question, I guess. What I’m getting at is trying to summarise your childhood in a fragrance/smell that brings back all the memories of youth. It doesn’t have to be the smell of your parents’ house – it can be quite specific, but should immediately transport you back in time.

As a kid, my Dad used to take me fishing. We mostly fished at night in a little dinghy but in later years he bought a boat with an outboard motor, so we also caught crabs and squid in addition to all the regular fish like whiting and flathead. I remember feeling so loved when my Dad took me fishing – it was a special time to converse one-to-one, without him being distracted by life (or my siblings).

Yesterday we realised that we didn’t have any plans for the day. It was warm and sunny outside, yet not hot enough to entice me to the beach. It’s still school holidays in NSW, so I worried that the zoo or the aquarium would be a little like a pilgrimage to Mecca, and yet P was keen to get out of the house.

We decided to call around some friends to see who was available for a BBQ/picnic. This was happening late in the morning, so we were far from organised, with not much time to do anything fancy. We packed a few things, bought some food on the way and drove to the Davidson Picnic Area, under the Roseville Bridge.

The kids all had a great time running around with bikes, balls and cricket bats. Actually, that was in between fighting over them, but oh well.

I also had the rare foresight to pack the fishing tackle, which has been used only a handful of times. We fished a little with the other families, and our friends’ little girl caught her first fish – a far-from-legal tarwine (or perhaps it was a baby bream). By the time we had to pack up, my kids were begging to go again.


So on our way home we stopped to have another go at it. We caught a bunch of tiddlers, J caught a close-to-legal tarwine, and I caught a bream – definitely a keeper. P killed it for me and the kids were satisfied with the catch, so we set off home with our dinner.

Walking back to the car, I smelled my hands and was instantly taken back to 10 years old. Raw prawns, salt water – a revolting smell in reality. I shoved them in P’s face:

This is the scent of my childhood

He looked at me bemused, but I just felt so content. Walking along in the afternoon sun with my little family – J carrying our fish carefully and P holding Little D, who was exhaused from the day but still very excited. Just like my 10 year old self – I felt so loved – and was surrounded by people I love just as much.

J's first fish

6 Responses to “What is the scent of your childhood?”

  1. Sarah January 8, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    For me it’s jasmine. We used to have it growing on the back fence. It would make me sneeze terribly, but the smell was so intense. It reminds me of playing cricket and riding bikes on the reserve at the back of the house.

  2. Barbara Good January 8, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    A lovely post L, and it sounds like you had one of those rare unplanned almost perfect days (besides the fights over the cricket bats). I’m hopeless at identifying the smell of my memories until I actually smell them, but I do have a few I can think of. The first is the same as Sarah’s – Jasmine – which grew near our tank and clothes line. The second is the smell of conifers (or as we always called it, the smell of Christmas) as we had a house near ours with a conifer hedge out the front which they would trim just before Christmas every year. But my favourite is the combination of cut grass and petrol (ie from mowing the lawn), it makes me think of weekends as kids where we would spend from dawn to dusk outside in the garden and with the neighbourhood kids while all the Dad’s cut the grass.

  3. Darren (Green Change) January 9, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    Funny, my daughter (8) caught her first fish this week too! A nice little whiting, which I pan-fried in butter and olive oil. Delicious.

    Like you, I spent a lot of my youth fishing. Every day after school, my mates and I would all meet down at the Huskisson wharf and fish off the side of the moored trawlers. We’d get mostly mullet and yellowtail (which we kept for bait), with occasional bream, tarwhine, blackfish, flathead, leatherjacket and even squid if you were lucky. If we started early on weekends, we could make a bit of money at the boat ramp selling mullet and yellowtail to boat fishermen as live bait.

    As for smells – rosemary reminds me of ANZAC Day. My grandfather lives on Anzac Parade in Canberra (right near the War Memorial, where the big march is). My brother and I would trim my grandfather’s rosemary hedge in the morning, and hand it out to passing marchers and spectators.

    Fresh strawberries remind me of my Nanna’s garden, and fun times spent devouring her berries. Maple syrup reminds me of my Grandma, a Canadian ex-pat who cooked pancakes for us for breakfast when we stayed. Passionfruit reminds me of raiding neigbours’ gardens in the early morning (just before fishing!).

    Smells can really transport you, can’t they?

  4. Kate January 9, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Mine is vegemite!

    • L from 500m2 in Sydney January 10, 2012 at 9:04 am #

      Kate, vegemite is a constant in my life – doesn’t bring back memories of a particular time. Did you stop eating it at some point, or does it bring back memories whenever you eat it?

  5. L from 500m2 in Sydney January 10, 2012 at 9:03 am #

    I’m loving these responses! Flowers seem to be a popular response (based on facebook comments too), and Barbara – I love the smell of cut grass too – very evocative.

    Darren – I love your stories- the fishing sounds fabulous, and such a lovely experience with the rosemary on ANZAC Day.

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