03/31/2014 03:15 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Where Do You Follow Your Nose?


It's been five years since I had a Krispy Kreme.

It isn't a coincidence. It's on purpose. I'm powerless over the kind of love I feel for Krispy Kremes. Realizing that -- and steering clear of them altogether -- has changed my life.

So naturally, when my husband and daughter partake I can't wait to grab the box of doughy goodness and inhale it so deeply I worry I'll ingest a donut through my nose.

"Why put yourself through the misery?" you may wonder.

Oh, but it isn't misery. It's heaven. Until I gave up this kind of decadence I didn't realize smell was a sense unto itself. Before it was always a means to an end, the thing that led me into temptation.

Now the aroma's just that. An aroma. And it's heavenly. I enjoy it without needing it to lead to anything else -- like a donut binge and the ensuing guilt.

That surprised me. I hadn't realized how powerful scent was until I separated it from my other senses.

There were clues, though.

There's a armoire in the basement of the house my parents still live in where they keep the World Book Encyclopedias. Nothing, and I mean nothing, calls up my childhood faster than opening those doors and taking a breath.

I wore Ciara cologne in high school. One whiff of that at Target and I'm right back in the drafting room, plotting what I thought was my future as a civil engineer.

The aroma of creosote (yep, aroma) when I pass a railroad yard whisks me back to the construction crew I worked on one summer when I was in college.

That's why I suggested Katie splurge on some expensive cologne for our vacation last year -- so every time she spritzed some on she'd remember being in Europe for the first time with us. She thought that was a good idea. Once home, once it started working its magic, she thought it had been a great idea.

Katie's nothing if not slathered in something heavenly. Getting into a car with her is like climbing into a piña colada. On a morning not long before we moved her to college last August I rounded the corner downstairs on my way to her dressing room. It's the only part of the house that's finished, and it's movie-star dreamy. I inhaled whatever she'd bathed herself in that morning as it hit me: "I will miss her scents."

Now I treat her to a big bottle of something yummy she uses when she's home. I finish it up after she's gone, and it keeps her a little closer.

Aromatic memories will break your heart with their sweetness, if you let them. Don't take my word for it. Open the box of your daughter's baby clothes you've tucked away in a closet, smell your sweetheart's pillow after he gets up early, pop your head into any elementary school classroom and get knocked over by the scent of Elmer's Glue.

See -- I mean smell -- what I mean?

How do you store your memories?