The Prompt: The scent of a memory

The Prompt 21: My favourite smell

As she opened another box, she groaned. How was it possible for one person to accumulate so much stuff?

She knew the answer of course; a combination of hoarding and moving house several times. Packing the boxes, moving the boxes, not unpacking the boxes, moving the boxes again. And repeat.

This time though, the packing had to be ruthless. There was no room for sentimentality. There was no room, period.

All these boxes needed to go. There was a part of her rational mind that reasoned she had needed nothing, missed nothing, from these boxes since they were packed three house moves ago; so therefore they could just disappear, in their entirety. No need for unpacking and sorting.

But, her heart knew differently, and so each box was to be unpacked and sorted; into the must keep, the maybe and the you’ve got to be kidding, I still have this? piles.

Several boxes in and she was losing the will to live. The you’ve got to be kidding pile was rather larger than she had expected.

As she lifted out yet another pile of paper, she already had a rainforest of paper ready for recycling, her eye was drawn to a small brown bottle wedged into the corner of the box. Glass, fragile, and amazingly, intact.

She lifted it out carefully, and without conscious thought, took out the old cork stopper and lifted the bottle to her nose. As she inhaled the scent of lavender she was back; back in her grandmother’s house, sitting on her grandmother’s bed, playing with the bottle while she listened to stories.

Magical stories, fantastical stories. Another world, another life. A childhood abroad, a life lived in full, adventures; amazing to a small child’s ears. She was transported to far off lands; words evoking sights and sounds and smells. She was right there, discovering and learning, questioning; excited and absorbed, imagination fired.

She was in the house; with laughter and love, the smell of baking and a roaring fire. She was seven again, playing hide and seek, the house full of quirky corners to get lost in. She was four again, celebrating her birthday, surrounded by family. She was five again, returning for the summer, full of her own stories to tell.

She was in the garden with the monkey puzzle trees, the rabbits, the big old pine tree you could sit inside; reading, dreaming, wishing; hours vanishing. The smell of pine, freshly cut grass, wild flowers. She was in her wellies, stomping through puddles and splashing through mud. She was running in the sunshine, stopping to pick sweet peas. She was giggling on the patio; ice cream dripping, licking sticky fingers.

She smiled, carefully replacing the stopper and putting the bottle in the keep pile, a ghost of the lavender smell, her favourite smell, lingering. In the air and in her memory.

This is a piece of fiction, however the bottle of lavender water exists (in a box somewhere).


You can find this weeks #ThePrompt linky here. I do hope this topic inspired you; I look forward to finding out what your favourite smells are.

Prose for Thought

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51 thoughts on “The Prompt: The scent of a memory”

  1. How beautiful to describe your favourite smell this way. Does it remind you of your grandmother?

    I could have written the first bit myself, as had a storage unit full of stuff that I kept for the years I travelled. Shouldn’t have bothered as most of it ended up in the bin!!

    Lovely tale #ThePrompt xx

  2. PottyMouthedMummy

    Oh I love this, so well written Sara! Smell is so very powerful, I loved the theme this week. Could have written about 80 posts I think!

    Thanks for hosting and have a wonderful weekend xx

  3. Beautifully written – amazing how a smell can transport you back in time lie that isn’t it? Lavender reminds me of the little handmade drawer bags my nan used to make and pop in hers. x

  4. Beautifully written post! Sounds like that lavender smell was like Proust’s Madeleine for you! My daily moisturiser that smells like honeysuckle reminds me of my childhood spent looked after by my great-grandmother… Fabulous prompt, sorry for not linking. X Mel

    1. Honeysuckle and Jasmine also bring back memories for me :) And, don’t worry, you’ve got enough to think about at the moment!

  5. Em @ snowingindoors

    Gorgeous piece of writing. I love the smell of lavender water, reminds me of my great Nan

  6. I love that you were inspired to write this post by an actual artefact that exists Sara! Its true though the sense of smell is possibly the strongest of the senses when it comes to memory triggers I reckon and can take you right back through the years in an instant. Lovely little story. X

    1. Thank you Sam x The bottle was my grandmothers, and some of the story is based on memories of her x

  7. This is lovely! It’s amazing how some scents can transport us back to our childhoods. For me it is the scent of lilac. One whiff and I’m a young girl again.

  8. Lovely, I really enjoyed reading this – very evocative. Not sure what my favourite smell is but one of the most evocative is old cigar smoke which always reminds me of my Grandfather at Christmas.

  9. Such a lovely post; I really do hope you find that bottle of lavender water and do give it a sniff every now and again for a magical journey back in time.

  10. Pingback: Smells: #The Prompt | MummyShire

  11. This is beautiful. Love the imagery and think most of us can definitely relate to it – those boxes that linger years after moving and an old fragrance that brings back precious memories. Love it .

  12. There is something quite magical about going through old boxes of stuff. However much I lament myself for being a terrible hoarder I love those lost hours rifling back through artefacts and memories! And smells are of course particularly powerful as you’ve captured beautifully here. Lovely post x

    1. There really is, isn’t there? We’re about to ship lots of boxes from the UK, I will be going through old stuff very soon :)

  13. I read this last week and thought I’d commented? So weird! Anyway, this is fabulous! Well done on trying something new – a bit of flash fiction. You really set the scene so well, I could almost smell the lavender for real! x

    1. Thank you Suzanne, I enjoyed writing it :) My askimet has been a little over zealous recently, huge apologies if it accidentally spammed you!

  14. The power of smell to reignite memories is amazing – I smelt parma violet sweets for the first time since I was a young teenager and there I was again, back at home and not a grey hair to be seen!

    (oh and I too have boxes that have not been unpacked in several house moves but I could NEVER throw them out without going through them first!)

  15. Beautifully written :) I love how some things just bring back memories. Senses are a wonderful thing – as is memory. I always connect certain songs to a time and place :) Thank you for linking to Prose for Thought gorgeous xx

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