Smells of Summer That Take Me Back

The other day while preparing to face the hot sun I covered myself with sunscreen. I had a generic brand, but just that smell of the lotion took me back to childhood and summer. I remembered Coppertone in the signature brown bottle. That day as I was working in the garden I made a mental list of other smells that did the same. Of course, you were either a Coppertone girl, a Sea and Ski girl, or you bravely put iodine in baby oil and slathered your body with that. Forget covering up, skin cancer, or sunburns. It was all just part of the summer ritual. (It was much later that the unforgettable smell of coconut and Hawaiian Tropic came on the scene.)

When I get anywhere near a pool I am back at the Kellogg public pool. The distinct chlorine smell reminds me of green mesh bags, suits that never quite lost that smell, hours of hanging out, pruny hands from staying in the water so long, and a beach towel soaked in chlorine that lingered while riding home on your bike.

I return to my Grandma Woolum's yard when I smell dill. Whether it was when I ran my hands over the maturing dill growing in the garden, or going to her cellar where it was drying it is a smell that is reminiscent of fresh cucumbers, Mason jars, and making dill pickles in August.

The pungent smell of campfire smoke reminds me singing songs around the campfire at Camp Neewahlu, roasting marshmallows with friends at Rose Lake, and gatherings up the river when we were old enough to drive and stay out later. Days later I could pick up a jacket or a shirt and the campfire scent would still be there.

When we had hot spells while growing up all I wanted to do is sit in the basement or go swimming. Then the skies clouded up and a summer rainstorm moved in. Summer rain smell is so distinct it is almost hard to put into words. You just know that smell. It is a mixture of wet pine needles, dampened dust, or rain dripping on maple leaves. Where I live now clouds gather above the lake and the air carries that smell of thunder and heat mixed with lilies and phlox. It is the smell of reprieve and a gentle reminder that autumn is just around the corner.

What smells take you back to childhood summers?


  1. beautiful.
    I, too, love the smells and relate them to times (good and bad).

  2. Yes, did you notice I didn't mention the bad times. It is amazing how smells can remind us of both.

  3. I love the smell of rain. I can smell it before it comes. It's refreshing and relaxing. Smells that take me back to my childhood? Mcdonald styrofoam burger containers that I use to play with in my play kitchen....LOL They don't make them any more, they are bad for the environment apparently.

  4. Delicious! We used to have an apricot tree in our back yard. Half of each apricot would ripen before the other half, but the ripened half was more delicious than any other apricot that I have ever tasted! I'm happy to have found your blog and have bookmarked it for future delightful reading and gazing!

  5. Jennifer: I do remember those containers.
    Granny Smith: Welcome! I hope you'll come back again.

  6. The smell that takes me back to childhood is that of leaves in dust by the canal, a faint sweet, damp smell and the heaven of bog myrtle... and blackberries. No scent in the world like warm blackberries.

    Thanks for reminding me!

  7. Loved this post! What a great topic for remembering!

    My mom used to buy cocoa butter for tanning. I love the smell. (Smells like chocolate without the cocoa!).

    My friends and I used Baby Oil.

    I liked the smell of the North Fork - sort of a crawdad, water and baked rock smell. Cd'A lake - wet bark and sand. Pinecreek: Hot rocks and mossy water.

    Freshly mown lawn.

    Wet dirt. (In Pinehurst, the rain smells like rich dirt, minerals, and faint pine needles.) Refreshing!

    Coppertone takes me back a long way. . .

  8. Oh, Coppertone takes me back, too! I sometimes take a whiff of the bottle in the winter when I'm feeling blue. It's funny how you can be walking along, minding your own business and a whiff of a smell can take you back decades. I love those moments.

  9. Neewahlu Camp, Neewahlu Camp, the peppiest camp around!
    We sang that while at camp, but I can't remember any other of the words. LOL

  10. PIMD: I had forgotten about cocoa butter... do they still make it? You got the smell of the river right.
    Janet: I know what you are saying about the smells. I smelled Noxema the other day... it took me back.
    Jackie: Now we will probably figure out we were at Camp Neewahlu together! Do you remember "Jaywalkie, Jaywalkie," or " Waddly Awchie"?


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