Watercooler Wednesday: Engage the Senses to Make Powerful Memories

When Christi and I got married, Bath and Body works had a wonderfully simple line of fruity body washes and sprays. Just before our honeymoon Christi bought a bottle of 'Peach' body spray. She wore it everyday. Even now, ten years later, that smell brings me back to the first week of our marriage. When I was seven, we moved overseas. We traveled pretty light - one suitcase per person. There wasn't much room for Christmas trees, decorations or Christmas albums. When Christmas rolled around, we found one Christmas album. The artist was Evie and the album title was 'Christmas Memories.' The first song on the album is 'Come On Ring Those Bells.' Since that was the first song on the only album we had, something became ingrained in my mind that Christmas didn't really begin until I heard 'Come On Ring Those Bells.' I'm thirty now and we have our own Christmas traditions, but we play that song every Christmas.

My mother-in-law makes a killer cheese ball. Somehow I've tied the taste to Thanksgiving and Christmas. Christi loves my Dad's dressing. She makes me cook it even if we miss Thanksgiving with my folks.

Whenever I hold a baby, I remember when mine were that small. Unfortunately, the strength of that memory always makes me want another baby of my own!

Christmas trees, pumpkins, merlions, and Chinese New Year decorations evoke wonderful memories on sight. If I'm not ready for them, they can take me by surprise. Merlions and Chinese New Year decorations make me homesick, if I'm not careful.

Smells, sounds, tastes, touches, and sights bind themselves to memories. Mostly, this bond happens by accident. If we are intentional, we can create sensory bonds that allow us to evoke wonderfully powerful memories.


Pick something simple you bake or wear during a special event. Bake a certain kind of cookie on the first day of the summer. Wear a certain kind of cologne or perfume every time your family goes on vacation.


Take pictures all the time, especially durning special events. Before you go on a vacation, have the family scrapbook the previous vacation. Bringing the memories forward will create excitement for the upcoming event or outing.


Cooking is a great way to engage the sense of touch. Have family members help you knead dought, decorate cookies, and lick the mixing spoon.


Before a special event, have family members list two or three favorite songs. Purchase these songs on iTunes and create a 'mix' for that event. Play that mix over and over during the trip or event.

I love it when I play a song or bake some cookies and my daughter's face lights up. "Do you remember the time, Daddy, when we...." That's when I know I've done my job and given her something she will carry with her for a lifetime.

This post is a part of the Watercooler Wednesday conversation over at Ethos. You can read today's discussion here.

JournalPaul Watson