Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Scent of a New School Year

I went to school in a uniform for 12 years. It would have been 13, but Kindergarten didn't have a uniform, so I had blue plaid first through eighth grade, Donegal tweed Freshman and Sophomore years, and green herringbone Junior and Senior years. School meant regulation clothes, regulation shoes, and, well, regulations.

It also meant new pens and notebooks -what writer doesn't love those???- folders, filler paper, erasers, and, because I was/am neurotic, a ruler.

But what it really meant was certain smells. Think about it. Do you remember what your grade school smelled like? Do you? I went to Catholic school, so my school smelled like floor polish (especially when the doors first opened in August), mimeograph paper, starch (the nuns still wore habits), blackboard cleaner, and frequently, wet wool. There were other nastier smells, but we won't go there right now!

My high school smelled of a good 18 different varieties of cologne, floor polish (gotta love those cleanliness is next to godliness nuns!), metal lockers, new carpet (some office was always getting a new carpet), the third floor smelled like the gym, and the fourth floor like the cafeteria. I went to an all-girls high school. Did I mention the 18 varieties of cologne? Also nail polish, nail polish remover (gotta have something do to at the back of the classroom), and the occasional whiff of hair spray.

When I encounter a constellation of smells like those I just described in the above paragraphs, there is no stopping the mental jolt I get as I am transported back to either grade school or high school. In fact, it can happen when I enter a school now for an author visit or for Young Authors' Night. They say the sense of smell is the most evocative of all senses. When you walk into a school, what memories do the smells evoke for you?

1 comment:

Norm Cowie said...

Two things I think we all want to see ... Ophelia in her school uniform and Ophelia in her karate gi.