Is it Nostalgia that Makes Me Smell the Roses?

On any given day, I would describe myself as nostalgic. June has always been a particularly “tripping down memory lane” kind of month….harkening back to childhood and the freedom of summers.

This June marked the 4th year of having lost my mother.  That milestone has certainly contributed to accelerating my nostalgia meter.

I have loved photos for as long as I can remember – even when I do not know the people or the objects in the photo. I am drawn to the story they tell me.  I have also been a picture taker for countless years.  Wrap all those factors together and you end up in a sea of photo albums and photo boxes.

Periodically I weed through my collections while promising myself I will pare down – ruthlessly throw out photographs and delete those taking up precious digital space. I could not be worse at a job than this one at hand.

The nostalgia kicks in and the photo takes me to the moment I captured it; who I was with, what I was eating, what I was wearing, what songs I was liking, what smells were in the air, what was making everyone laugh….the list of memories is endless.

When I came across the photo “Pruning the Roses,” it was the comforting memory of my mother that resurrected itself. I remember seeing my mom tend to her roses – a daily ritual.  Back 25 years ago, with camera always by the ready, I started snapping away.  My distinct thought was ‘I always want to remember my mother’s hands.’

When I was a child, my mother’s hands fascinated me. Long elegant fingers that seemed to move effortlessly and gracefully.  I can see her hands cupped over mine sitting on our back porch, teaching me the intricacies of tying my own shoelaces.  I could barely concentrate for how mesmerized I was by the magic of her hands.  It is one of my most vivid memories from childhood.

Then there are the roses. There was every color in her garden.  They would bloom; she would prune to get “a second showing.”  The rose cuttings found their way to various vases and bowls.  The fragrance of a rose still sends me to a euphoric high.  Honestly, how does any one thing possibly smell so heavenly?  No one has to tell me to “take time to smell the roses.”  I have never met a rose I did not stop to smell.

Our cherished memories can be a source of comfort and that is good for us. There are all sorts of sensory triggers, which can awaken a memory, which results in a feeling of nostalgia.  These nostalgic memories help us preserve that which we do not want to lose.

I often heard groans from family members when I would be present, always with a camera slung round my neck. “I hate having my picture taken,”  became an all too common complaint in my family and with friends.  I became bold with a camera in hand and went about getting the photos I wanted regardless.  My comeback was always the same, “Some day you will be happy to have this picture and you will be glad someone stopped to take it.”

I am the person people know to come to for a photo from the past. I had more pictures than I could choose from when we were celebrating our mother’s life and death.  Yes, those pictures touch on many memories.  Comfort.

There are many who live with us or amongst us who deal with dementia. We know there are sensory triggers that will tease a memory out of the confusion of dementia.  Check out a couple of articles that support the power of drawing on sensory triggers.




Reminisce, bathe in nostalgia, pour over photo albums, and see what joy might come from that. Take the photos now – for yourself.  Those moments you freeze on “film” will never happen again.

I may never succeed in paring down these photo collections of mine. I am not sure I even care about that.  The pleasure I have in being nostalgic over the past far outweighs the concept of minimalist living.  I will always remember my mother’s hands.  I will always smell the roses with a mother in mind.  Lucky me.

Author Info

Jayne Girodat

Jayne Girodat is the Communications Specialist at North Shore Elder Services. Along with ten years in the position of Caregiver Support Specialist at another ASAP, Jayne was a long-distance caregiver to parents for the same amount of time. That experience serves as motivation to better understand the issues of aging and to engage people in conversations about those issues. Jayne's background in teaching contributes to her appreciation of social media as a tool to educate readers on aging concerns. "I love asking people questions. Everyone likes to be heard. When you ask and then listen, you'll find everyone has a story and some of those stories are gems. I think it is particularly important to hear the voices of our older adults. Those are the stories I really connect to and hope to bring to North Shore Elder Services' audience."

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