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Are Some of Your Fondest Childhood Memories Smells?

My father didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. ~C.B. Kelland

Do you have memories like this:

Among my fondest childhood memories are those where my dad played with us, especially when we did what my mom called “rough housing.” My brother and I would pile on my dad in the middle of the living-room and wrestle. I think the reason these memories are so strong is they involved all of the senses, especially touch and smell.

I remember how impossibly big and strong he felt, and I remember the smell of his aftershave (one I probably bought him for Father’s day) and also the smell that was just uniquely him… that wonderful dad smell. Do you remember it? There’s another smell I remember fondly, though it was actually from times I wasn’t feeling my best.

If I could, I’d ask you to close your eyes, but then you’d not be able to read this. Still, imagine it. Remember the times you were sick with a cold or flu. I loved the feel of my dad pulling a heavy pile of blankets up to my chin. I can still hear his voice saying, “I’m going to get something to help you feel better, buddy,” as he left for the store.

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If you’re eyes were closed (as I’m sure mine were) you’d soon hear him re-enter the room, and already you’d feel better. Then there would be the sound of a lid turning as he opened a jar, followed by the the unmistakable scent of Vicks Vapo Rub wafting over the bed. I was certain at that point I could already breathe just a bit easier.

Closing my eyes now, I can feel him pull back that pile of covers and unbutton my PJ top with those big fingers of his. Then he spread that cool, yet warm wonderful concoction on my chest, and my breathing & cough eased. It was, again, that combination of touch and smell I most remember. Do you remember how it made you feel?

When I was asked if I’d like to write about my experiences as a dad with VapoRub, I didn’t hesitate, as I’ve been using it on my little girl when she’s been sick. There’s nothing worse than a sick child. And just as I hope she remembers all the times she’s “rough housed” with me, I suspect she’ll also remember the comfort of Vapo Rub.

Think about your fondest memories of childhood. Do you just remember it as if viewing a movie shot on an old camera, or can you remember other senses, as well? Perhaps it’s the sizzle and smell of turkey as it emerges from the kitchen on Thanksgiving, or the smell and sharp prick of pine needles on a real Christmas tree?

What are your fondest childhood memories?

*Please note: This post was sponsored on behalf of Vicks VapoRub, but the words and opinions are very much my own. As you know, I will never promote a product in which I don’t strongly believe; and I’m sure you can tell, I have very fond memories of VapoRub. I wish you a very safe, healthy and happy holiday season! ~Michael

p.s. if you like VapoRub be sure to “like” their Facebook Page. I also wanted to point out their super sweet free virtual care packages you can customize and send your friends on Facebook. I just tried it out and it lets you put in videos, photos, plush pillows, flowers, etcetera (virtually speaking) and other cool stuff to help a friend feel better.

21 comments

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  1. Kelley Simpson

    I loved this!
    I totally remember that smell. I think the one that stands out to me the most was this:
    My Dad was a deputy sheriff and he wore Old Spice, nothing else, ever. I have a memory of him at 6′-4” walking in the house in uniform, smelling like Old Spice and leather. Leather gun belt and boots. He seemed so huge, strong and safe. When I became a deputy myself I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to smell the leather, hear the way it squeaked when I moved around, but I smelled like Victoria Secret Pink, not Old Spice. Hanging out with all the older deputies who still wore Old Spice always made me a little home sick for those old days when I was tiny and my pop was still a cop. Thanks for bringing those memories back! Kelley

    1. Michael Schmid

      I have a memory of him at 6′-4” walking in the house in uniform, smelling like Old Spice and leather… He seemed so huge, strong and safe.

      What a wonderful memory. I love the way you evoke all of the senses… including even the squeak of the leather. I bought my dad Old Spice and also English Leather for Father’s Days. And soap on a rope of course. 😉 Thank you so much for sharing this. It brought a tear to my eye. Your dad must be so proud of you, Kelley.

      1. Kelley Simpson

        I can totally remember standing in Clark’s drugs with my allowance holding the cologne rope soap combo box. My parents were divorced so It was big for me to get him that gift. At least I knew I could never go wrong with that one! Thanks for your sweet comments here and on the Twitter.. lol You’re a peach!

  2. Elizabeth Chavez

    Wow! Great post. My first thought was the smell of my Grandma’s soup. And then I read the previous comment and the smell of my dad’s Old Spice rushed into my nose. Seriously – I could actually SMELL him and his youth and his happiness. Thanks for making me cry a few happy tears!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you, Elizabeth. I must confess to tearing up a bit when I wrote this (thinking about my late father), and then as I read your comments they also are so personal and touching. I bet most of our dads wore Old Spice? I can picture the white bottle on the counter in my parent’s bathroom. *Hugs!*

  3. YUMMommy

    The smell of peppermint reminds me of my great uncle. He’d always have pockets full of it. Peppermint was the only candy he believed was ok for children to eat. My siblings and I had a lot of great times with him.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Peppermint. I love that, Kerry. Isn’t amazing how certain smells are tied so closely with thoughts and feelings? It sounds like your uncle was really great. :)

  4. Shannon

    I definitely remember the feeling of safety and comfort that came with having my mom rub Vicks on my chest when I was sick!

    And my dad still tells me to put it on my feet and wear socks when I get sick:)

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thanks so much for your comment, Shannon. My old boss used to swear putting VapoRub on the souls of her sons’ feet and later on her granddaughter’s feet with socks over them in bed at night helped. I can’t speak to it, but doubt it would hurt? Anyone else know anything about that?

  5. sarah

    OMG so funny, i remember the smell of vicks & McDs fries at my grandmas (she worked at mcdonalds & our family has chronic bronchitis). Smelling beer reminds me of my grandpas (alcoholics). lol , these oddly are smiley memories :)

    I still love Old Spice cuz it reminds me of the guys in my family.

    I love cinnamon and oranges. My mom would sizzle them on the stove as a natural (mom-toxic) freshener. I love the smell of BBQ bc summer meant my moms extravagant salads & grilling. nom

    1. Michael Schmid

      Wow… that was quite the list of sense related memories. Even the potentially less positive ones are firmly rooted, and I’m glad they still brought a smile. Yes, Old Spice seems to be one a lot of us remember. I just re-read the last part of your comment and now my stomach is growling. LOL. Thanks so much for the comment, Sarah!

  6. Myrth

    All the posts are fully informative and having very good themes. I love to visit your blog again and again it’s really increase my knowledge. Thanks for the awesome post.

    1. Michael Schmid

      Thank you very much!

  7. Cat @Breakfast to Bed

    My Dad thinks that vaporub cures EVERYTHING. He’s like the guy in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” with the windex!!

    1. Michael Schmid

      LOL. I remember that movie, Cat. How funny. Well, you never know, your dad may be right. :) I certainly love it for easing coughs and such from cold and flu.

  8. Lassa

    Ive never thought about this and never thought about smells before.

    Mine is a strange one though, I would go to bed before my dad came home and when he came in he would always put the radio on, I coud hear it while I drifted off to sleep.

    For some reason now when I am going to sleep if I have the radio on if makes me feel safe!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Isn’t it fascinating what we remember, and how those things can comfort us even today? Thanks so much for sharing, Lassa… and good to see you again. I know what you mean about sound, in your case the radio. I can distinctly remember lying in bed and feeling safe because I could hear the vague murmur of my parent’s voices talking. Just thinking of it takes me right back to that moment, though I’ve lost my dad some years ago.

      1. Lassa

        I guess it shows we are all really wired the same regardless of if we like to admit it or not!

        I used to actually creep to the top of the steps as a kid and listen into my parents conversations sometimes.

        1. Michael Schmid

          Yes, for me it was really comforting hearing their voices.

  9. Barbara L

    There was always Vicks in our home when I was growing up.
    We would make Sassafras tea every year. Oh I love the smell of Sassafras!

    1. Michael Schmid

      Is Sassafras something you can buy at the store… or need I go in search of it in the back 40? I totally have no idea what it looks or smells like, but will check for it at Whole Foods. Yep, I love Vicks VapoRub. Brings back so many memories. There’s still some on my bedside table right now from when I had pneumonia last month. Great stuff.

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