So, my memory for events in my own life is well... spotty at best. My brain has prioritized "knowledge" over personal experiences. Therefore I can better explain how neurons work (nerd) or how data packets are transmitted over the Internet (geek) than what I did in high school. Or even last week. My best friend, who seems to have a strong propensity for remembering events and people in our lives, teases me that she's going to re-invent our high school years -- and I'll never know.
However, there is a neurological ability (see -- BIG nerd) that most if not all people possess (sometimes called the "nostalgic nose") that provides us with a window to our past. Apparently, our senses of smell and taste -- especially our first experiences with a particular smell or taste -- are strongly associated with our memories. I'm sure you've taken a whiff of something and said "oh... that reminds me of " In fact, these memories are often emotional in nature rather than just experiential (oh, such a nerd). So, you can even relive those feelings just by finding that smell again. Pretty cool, huh?
I recently had a very pleasant experience with this. We ate breakfast restaurant where they boasted made-from-scratch jams. My husband raved how good his raspberry jam was. I had to give it a try. Mmmm -- this jam smells and tastes just like my moms! Now, I haven't had my mother's homemade jam in over 20 years, but the whiff and taste of this jam brought me back to our kitchen growing up, my mom cooking jam, the canning jars, storing the jam in the freezer, making peanut butter and jam sandwiches and picking berries with my family. All from a whiff and a taste.
I have another scent nostalgia that I still get to relive on special occasions. About 1 year BK (before kids), hubby and I decided to take "that big trip to Europe." While in Paris, it seemed like the touristy thing to buy some perfume. I wore this perfume for the rest of the vacation. Now, if I ever want to "go to back to Europe," I just have to put on my perfume. Suddenly, I'm in Paris. Or Venice. Or Athens.