We can all get a bit misty-eyed about the past. It only takes a flavor or the smell of a familiar cologne to bring me right back to a certain moment and, more specifically, a certain feeling. What is it about a particular song that comes on the radio, where suddenly I’m back in my dorm room, cramming for finals, ramen noodles at the ready? And it can hit you when you least expect it – walking through a crowded restaurant and a familiar song begins to play, and you’re powerless to stop the movie reel of memories, that take on that all-too-familiar rosey tinted hue.
I was meandering across campus for the 10th time the other day and caught a whiff of Polo Sport, hailed by thousands of college guys the world over in the 90’s as they transitioned from high school to “adulthood with a meal plan” and realized they need to impress the ladies. I almost wonder if they got some sort of group memo about Polo Sport and the cute coeds who supposedly love it, because it was everywhere in my late teens and early 20’s.
The minute that nostalgic scent hit 2015-Kara’s nostrils, I found myself walking across an entirely different campus in 1999, safely skipping ahead in my naiveté, the whole world before me. Those molecules had unknowingly fused into my brain with a viselike grip – and in an instant I felt the rush of a first heartbreak, the number of times I hit replay on that Counting Crows cd, the tears shed over what had (at the time) seemed like the most intense feelings in the world. And my 2015 self came to a screeching halt on the path leading towards my next meeting, whipping my head to the left and watching that odor plume of Polo Sport disappear along the breeze, as quickly as the past that had just caught up with me, memories trailing in its wake.
Turns out, time travel has already been invented…
The past beats inside me like
a second heart.John Banville, The Sea
I have always loved the effect of a sheer chiffon overlay on a print…it gives it that exact misty quality that we all have when we turn our glance to retrospect. And it softens the edges of a print just so, as if you’re looking back and seeing the things that once felt so vibrant and passionate have calmed. I can definitely appreciate the insight that time and distance can bring.
I’ve been waxing nostalgic a lot lately. Maybe that’s something that always happens as the end of the year starts to beckon you forward, when she used to sit safely in the distance. Maybe it’s because we’re approaching some invisible “next stage” in our life, which always forces our mind to the past. Or maybe I’ve been living life in four-year increments for so long, my body’s natural rhythms are expecting change. I can’t really say. But I can say that sense memory is rather provocative and gets right to the heart of the matter. I may not always remember the exact contours of a face, what I was wearing on a given day, or the way the furniture was placed in a room, but I will always remember exactly how I felt with one whiff of a rather ill-advised cologne.
I wonder if a future me will look back to this space and time and what my subconscious is deeming worthy of holding onto. I kind of like thinking of my mind like little worker bees. Even now, without my express permission, they’re storing facts and feelings away in the corners of my mind. Maybe there’s been a particular shampoo I’ve used this year, a particular song I’ve listened to incessantly, the smell of honeysuckle as the flowers are blooming all over campus that will be the trigger. And a decade from now, I’ll find I’ve stored the poignant moments from this year away, to be revisited when I least expect it…
What are your biggest sense memory triggers?
Dress: Xtabay Vintage (similar modern here & here or vintage here, here, here & here)
Necklace: Sora Designs
Handbag: Gift, Bluebird Vintage (similar here, here & here)
Crinoline: Vivien of Holloway
Shoes: Manolo Blahnik, thrifted (similar here, here & here)