S’mores, salty ocean breezes, veggie burgers on the grill, sweaty people on the bus — what’s the smell you associate the most with summer?
As a child, I could list at least a dozen scents reminiscent of the greatest season known to man.
Freshly mowed lawns, Coppertone or QT, that fishy smell after a rain, and a host of flowering blooms that tended to hang on the air in humidity.
The way it smelled right before a storm blew through, and then a different smell afterward — both distinct and yet water induced. Fresh, I think? Wet freshness.
Still, growing up it was the smell of coconut oil, baby oil, Hawaiian Tropic, or Coppertone that remained my number one looking-forward-to-smelling scent of summer.
Today, those scents are gone. I rarely smell tanning lotion on a body today, so it isn’t wafting around on every breeze, and no matter where I go or what I’m doing. It just isn’t there anymore, not even when I do hit the beach. Maybe SPF 180 is unscented?
Sweat wasn’t sweat as a child. My parents told us we were getting a little ripe before they tossed us inside a foamy tub of warm water in summer. I do recall the scent of man after hanging out in the sun for awhile, though. Not body odor, but a strange mixture of heat, sweat, and skin oil, I think. Very common nose assailant in summer as a child.
Sweat can’t be labeled as strictly summer scent today, though, because of all the gyms on every corner.
While I was in college, I was often left to wonder how parents had somehow managed to neglect the need to instill in their offspring the frequent use of deodorant and/or an occasional bathing ritual. Try entering a packed elevator on campus fall, winter, spring, or summer and tell me I’m wrong.
As for the freshly mowed lawns? Today, it’s a highly offensive chemical smell that gives me a mild headache. After a rain, though, I can get so sick that I am this close to throwing up. Thank you, Chem-Lawn, for that wonderful addition to the season.
Barbeque is another summertime novelty that isn’t such a novelty anymore — at least not where I live. People do this year-round, and yes, I still live in Michigan. Ten feet of snow or 103 degrees, it doesn’t matter. We barbeque.
The next-door neighbor moved into a house that had one of them built-in jobs on a raised deck behind the house. The old neighbors used it once a summer. The new neighbors fired it up the first week they arrived, and we had to close up the house, don face masks, and drop copious amounts of Visine for the next few hours.
This occurred around midnight, by the way.
Three years later, and they still haven’t figured out how to CLEAN the damn thing, because the same acrid, flesh-eating scent fills the air — at around midnight — to choke us out of a deep sleep or force us to have to shut the windows and swelter in our own sanctum until their char-broiled taste buds are sated.
As for flowers, I notice this far more in late spring than throughout the summer. Where I once lived, I planted two moonflowers. Talk about night time summer scent.
When it comes to signalling a season, and for summer, I would lean more toward sounds. Years ago and for as long as I could remember, Ernie Harwell (the voice of summer) and his Detroit Tiger’s play-by-play on every radio tuned in on the block, was a warm, fuzzy feeling of summer.
You have to go to a beach to smell that kind of briny, mossy, and this is definitely a great lake smell, but as I mentioned, not before or after the rains come. Then you know, even miles away from a huge body of water, where you actually live and how amazing it is to be where you are at that moment.
Sounds: incessant bird chirping, lawn mowers, Harley Davidson engines, and wind chimes. Kids screaming, neighbors talking at the back fence, and the occasional splash of pool water.
Maybe chlorine, but that isn’t the case now, either. Again, going to any gym at any time of the year, the pungent, knock you flat aroma of a bit too much hits you like a knock-out punch. I no longer associate that scent with a season but of a place.
For me, I associate summer with fireflies and crickets. Today, the sight and sound identify the season more than anything I can think of to smell that triggers summer in my mind but that did as a child.