Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Sound/Memory Connection

We always hear about the connection between smell and memory -- with the classic example being the smell of paste and the memory of wetting one's pants in first grade -- but I just had the most intense SOUND memory connection!

Mom loved nuts, especially almonds and hazelnuts, and any chance she'd get she'd sit at the kitchen table and crack nut after nut. The sequence of sounds was completely predictable: rustling through the bowl for the right nut, cracking the nut with one solid CRACK, placing the nutcracker on the table, digging the meat of the nut out of the shell, and chewing the crunchy reward... to be repeated over and over again, providing a steady cadence to conversation or background music (always classical), or sometimes as a solo.

As Tom came into the kitchen while I was cracking a nut, I asked him if the sound reminded him of my mother. "Nope," he said, "It reminds me of cracking nuts for Christmas cookies with my mother." And then he recited a memory of his mother that for him must be as vivid as my own memories of my mother.

Interesting stuff, that sensory-memory connection!

(Side note: The bowl in the photo is the result of my one and only attempt at glassblowing!)

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