Friday, December 9, 2022


Ziploc bag helps me remember my father


By Chuck Woodbury

The brush

I was organizing some boxes the other day when I came across my father’s hairbrush. My father died nine years ago. When packing up his stuff back then, I placed the brush in an air-tight Ziploc bag (and put that bag inside another bag) and stored it with other items.

The brush has many short bristles, and it picked up a lot of hair. Every so often a brush like that needs to be cleaned. My father’s had not been cleaned in a long time, and contained hundreds of his hairs.

What a surprise it was when I opened that Ziploc bag! It was like my father had walked right into the room: I could smell him! I put my nose even closer to the bag and the smell was stronger. It wasn’t a good smell or a bad smell. It was just the way my dad smelled.

If I closed my eyes, my father was there! It was unnerving. It made me sad, because all of a sudden the memory of him was overpowering: I experienced the same emptiness I’ve often felt since he died.

I have kept that Ziploc bag handy, and many years on his birthday I open it for about 15 seconds. With my eyes closed, I sniff. And ever-so-briefly my father is with me again. It’s wonderful.

AFTER THINKING ABOUT THIS, I realized that smell is the one sense we can’t actually imagine at will. I mean, if I close my eyes I can almost see my father’s face. If I concentrate I can hear his voice. But no matter how hard I try, I cannot remember what he smelled like.

My mother, who died shortly after my father, wore the same perfume every day. When I came into a room, if she were there I would know it before I saw her. But if I try to remember the smell of that perfume, I cannot. Yet, if someone were to walk into my room today today wearing it, I would immediately recall my mother.

I don’t believe that anyone can, at will, imagine a smell of the past. I believe you must actually smell it. I don’t even recall a dream that involved smell.

What do you think?


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3 years ago

Yes, the smell of a passed loved one can stay on a hat, old sweatshirt even the hair brush for a long time. I hug my husbands raggedy hat all the time because I can still smell him. It’s priceless……….

5 years ago

I still have my mother’s hair net from 1982 tucked away in an envelope. Every now and then, I open the envelope, and ever so briefly, she is standing beside me.

5 years ago

2 memories about smell- I once worked in a boatshop, and one day we cut into a piece of [lywood. The smell of the sawdust took me back to my childhood when my dad had made a table for our Lionel trains – it was a remarkable leap back in time.
The other was a little less pleasant. Many weeks after our grandmother died, my brother & I went to clear out her apartment. When I opened her closet door, the odor of stale cigarette smoke was very evident. She had smoked for years, and her clothes were saturated with the smell of tobacco smoke those many weeks later.

Gilbert Parker
5 years ago

When our daughter in law passed away at age 27, it was a real heartbreak for our son and the whole family. One of the things his church friends did was to come to the house and wash all of her clothes everything she wore. When our son found out his comment was “All the smells of her are gone.” That upset him for quite a while. So it is not a bad idea to put something in a ziplock bag!!

5 years ago

I have a box containing scarves my mother wore….when I open it I can smell her. It’s comforting because I still miss her so. Now I just wish I’d captured her voice.

5 years ago

Yes, I agree, savor it.

5 years ago

Beautiful, tear producing. Oh to have a memory like that. Savor it.