A ride down memory lane…

There was a song that my ex-boyfriend refused to listen to.  He said it brought up bad memories for him of a past relationship.  It was a song that I loved…of course…and wanted to listen to all the time.  One day we got into a fight about it and I told him I didn’t see why it was such a big deal.  He asked me how I could not understand…after all, there must have been a song like that for me…one that evoked very strong memories.  Because I was in the mood to be childish and difficult, I told him that I had no song like that…that music didn’t have that effect on me.  Then I pouted for a while.

The truth was that, of course, music has that effect on me.  (It has that effect on everyone…scientists have done studies.)  In fact, the first few notes of Building a Mystery by Sarah McLachlan reminds me of that particular ex boyfriend.  I just hear those notes and suddenly it’s 14 years ago and I’m sitting in his living room in Long Island or I’m strolling next to him on a Friday night after a dinner at our favorite restaurant. 

It Takes Two by Rob Base reminds me of hanging out in my friend’s basement in high school.  Oh What a Night by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons reminds me of endlessly driving by the house of the boy I had a crush on my senior year.  Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by The Platters reminds me of the first time I spent the night at J’s house and we stayed up all night talking and playing our favorite songs.  There are a million songs that remind me of a million memories. 

But it’s not just music.  Certain smells will forever be tied to specific memories.  The smell of lamb chops cooking reminds me of the apartment where my grandparents lived when I was young.  The smell of my girlfriend’s apartment is the same as the smell of her mother’s house growing up and when I walk in I’m instantly transported back 30 years to playing Barbies in her basement.  The smell of fresh cut flowers reminds me of my grandmother’s funeral. 

Yesterday, I was sitting on a crowded bus, on my way home and a man sat next to me.  As soon as he sat down I smelled the very familiar scent…of citrus with a hint of chocolate…the cologne that an ex used to wear.  I love the smell of it on it’s own…it’s always been like crack to me…and it certainly smells better than the bus.  But it’s a smell that holds very strong memories for me as well…of my 22 year old self…of a man who was not my first love, but who was very significant to me…of the time we spent together.  They were nice memories…and definitely a good distraction from the idiots at the front of the bus arguing over non-sense while we sat in endless traffic. 

What smells or songs or sounds are significant for you?  What do they remind you of?


  1. There’s a song by Third Eye Blind that was playing the night I broke up with someone. This was back in 2004 and to this day every time I hear that song I remember sitting in the car with him while we both cried over the end of our relationship. Songs have a MAJOR effect on me I suppose!

  2. What was the song that reminded your ex of his ex?

    So many music reminds me of times in my life and smells take me back forever. I sometimes purchase Finesse shampoo just to feel like I’m in middle school again and making my hair as high as the hills w/ Rave hairspray. And certain albums transport me to fun times – case in point Third Eye Blind’s debut album reminds me of college and my first time as being a single and even though I wasn’t totally happy I knew I was so where I needed to be… like the songs says “I’ve never felt so alone and I’ve never felt so alive!” – Motorcycle Drive By [Third Eye Blind]. Certain smells take me back too and I love that.

  3. I have a lot of music that reminds me of the year I spent in Jasper – whenever I hear one, I get all glaze-y (because that’s how I spent most of that year in Jasper…by “glaze-y”, I mean “drunk”) and tell Wilzie “This was one of my Jasper songs…”
    When I moved back home after that year, I remember my Mom walking by my room and taking in a deep breathe – she said that she really missed the smell of me in the house (my hairspray, cosmetics, etc), and that she never realized how happy it made her until I was gone.
    I feel the same way whenever I smell her perfume.

  4. November Rain by Live reminds me of my HS boyfriend. He thought it should be “our song.” Apparently, homeboy didn’t listen to the lyrics because no song with the word “placenta” should be “our song.” Memories of the same boyfriend are brought up by The God that Failed by Metallica. Pretty much anything by the Beastie Boys reminds of the fun had at 5A finals in swimming my junior year in high school. I have a lot of songs that remind me of people, as well as smells and other sounds. Some are painful, others wonderful

  5. Drakkar will forever remind me of the entire time I spent in high school. I’m not even sure they make it anymore but if I smelled it today, I would be transported to standing in the hall, leaning into Matt Yeast and wondering where we would make out after school.

    “Stairway to Heaven” brings back middle school dances since the DJ (and ex boyfriend) played it at the end of the night while breaking down equipment since it’s so ridiculously long. “Laid” brings back smoking unfiltered cigarettes and driving way too fast on our way to the Pacers v. Magic game. And of course, Somewhere Over the Rainbow brings back the moment I walked down the aisle and seeing Neal blink back the tears.

    This was an awesome post, darling!!!! One of my faves of yours, I think.

  6. I could respond with a bazillion songs. “Summer Rain” by Carl Thomas reminds of a bad-decision boyfriend I had post-college. He loved that song and said the girl in the video reminded him of me. Coincidentally, he found me sent me a message on facebook yesterday. Gross. That is the worst part about facebook — people you don’t want to find you finding you. “Crossroads” by Bone Thugs reminds me of when my old high school boyfriend was killed in 1996. Sorry, don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. To offset that sad song, “Put It In Your Mouth” by Akinyele reminds me of my old college club days. The smell of bacon reminds me how sad it is I don’t eat bacon.

  7. Nostalgia is a powerful thing. King of Wishful thinking is probably the most extreme one. Grad school ex used to sing it to me, became a joke, ended up getting him a picture frame with that engraved. Apparently he still had it a year after we ended. There’s a Coldplay song too, Swallowed on the Sea, he had they lyrics up as his IM profile right after we broke up (it was his decision, so still don’t get that). Ahhhh the one that got away…I think I need a drink now :)

  8. I really love this post. Very beautifully written and poetic. It’s amazing how we can’t ever let go of a memory and how it’s linked with a passing fragrance, in the note of a song, or in the colors of a sunset.

    Mine aren’t nearly as romantic as yours. The Beatnuts remind me of an ex, the Funky Meters make me think of life in college and the crazy parties we used to have. If I see a Ouiji board I think of the time I tried to summon Bob Marley’s spirit with a close friend. The taste of pesto and I’m sitting in my favorite pizza shop in NJ where I used to work with some of the best friends in my life.

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