Memory and Senses

sensesI stepped out of my office and my senses sprang to life with memory.

I’d left marinara sauce simmering on the stove downstairs, but this pungent aroma differed from the weekly norm.

I scurried into the kitchen. “Do you smell it?” I shouted.

My puzzled husband nodded.

I reached for the spoon to taste. “It’s my grandmother’s sauce!”

Something about this sauce touched a memory I thought lost 27 years ago.

I could hardly wait.


As we age, our senses dull; but they’re also the last piece of who we are to go.

Our memories may fade but our senses can still touch them, somehow across the ages.


90 years separate their ages, but they can still play!

My maternal grandfather preferred the spiciest food he could get–both as a memory of the past, but also for the pleasure.

Grandpa might not have been able to see or hear well, but he could still taste.

He loved to have my children jump on him–human contact from a little boy delighted the man who had worked outside his whole life.


I need only hear the opening chords of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 8 in C Minor (Pathetique) and I am transported home again.

My father listened to a radio program every night at 9 that began with Beethoven’s Sonata.

The chords wafted through the heating vent above my head.

The music comforted me–with my father home that night, we were safe and I could relax into sleep.

I’m reassured whenever I hear the music.

I’ve heard many stories about people sunk into Alzheimer’s who can no longer communicate in sentences, but who perk up and can sing hymns long remembered from deep in their soul.



Not me, but close!

Chenille coverlets takes me back to childhood lying on my paternal grandmother’s bed.

Scratching my ears, a tight wool beret provides the memory of climbing Notre Dame’s towers on a freezing March day.

Black tights clasp my legs and spin me into a gymnastics twirl.

The sticky tendrils of a shaggy pepper tree–I’m learning to climb a tree.


A bar of Ivory soap returns me to my grandparent’s funky bathroom on a Saturday night.

Eucalyptus reminds me of their farm; the soil so soft it puffed when you stepped into it.

The tang of the ocean always calls me home.


Pictures, views, previous homes, loved ones.

Sight stirs my memory all the time.

Last week I examined photographs of Oswald and Biddy Chambers–high resolution photos the likes of which I’d not see before.

It got hard to see them after awhile through the tears.


I asked my father-in-law one day what he missed the most about his mother.

“It was her cooking,” he said before launching into a description of Slovenian sausages, potica and fresh vegetables.

I countered with my grandmother’s cutlets–which my family has tried innumerable times to replicate to no avail.

We both missed tastes on our tongue that immediately took us back to a loved woman’s care.

What made the difference?

I make marinara or pesto sauce every Sunday–it’s a family tradition.

What made it smell–and then taste like my grandmother’s?senses

My grandparents lived on a farm.

They cooked fresh from their garden.

The sauce that day came from tomatoes I’d picked that afternoon.

I grew five different types of tomatoes this year.

I should have realized long ago, my Italian grandmother used Roma tomatoes.

She cut the basil from her garden, probably the oregano, too.

The deep red sauce tasted as rich as it smelled.


What memories do your senses stir?

Which sensory memories would you like the most to have once more?


Senses and memories, stirring Grandma’s sauce. Click to Tweet

How to ignite memory with senses. Click to Tweet

Touch, sound, feel, taste and smell for comfort. Click to Tweet






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