Scent Memory: No 2 | Lavender & Laundry

Scent Memory: No 2 | Lavender & Laundry

As part of our blog series, we will be exploring the role scent plays in our life. This post delves into the relationship between scent and memories in a very personal way, since the two are powerfully linked. We hope you enjoy, and we look forward to sharing more scent memories with you in the coming months.


To say that I was an anxious child would be an understatement. By the time I was seven, I had already acquired a long list of phobias: heights, fighting robots, commercials for that talking “Amazing Ally” doll (seriously, Nickelodeon?!). However, there was one fear that seemed to land above the others: the dark.

Nighttime amplified my other anxieties. It left me with a world of the unknown filled sounds, shadows, and voices that went bump in the night and made my mind imagine the worst. This anxiety only intensified when I turned eight and began having dreams inside of dreams. (Christopher Nolan, you’re welcome for the inspiration for Inception). I would often “wake” from one dream and think it was real life until something uncanny tipped me off, and the cycle would start all over again. These dreams-within-dreams left me afraid to even sleep.

I felt unbearably alone. The only thing that could comfort me during that time was my mother; her warm, sturdy back sleeping against mine made me feel safe. Much to my child self’s dismay, she could not share my twin bed with me every night. How would I find nightly peace without her?

One day, when we were doing laundry, I found one of her old nightgowns. I held it to my chest, and it immediately smelled like my mother: a serene mix of lavender and fabric softener. I was instantly comforted.

I began sleeping with my mother’s old nightgown, the worn cotton fabric wrapped in my arms like a stuffed animal. Breathing in its lavender scent reminded me of my mom and calmed my nervous system. I knew I was safe and that she was only in the next room. I soon began to drift peacefully off to sleep, my mother’s scent guiding me into the dreamworld.

Over a decade later, I still sometimes have trouble sleeping. I greatly prefer my own bed to anyone else’s, and often spend nights in hotel rooms or overnight couch stays tossing and turning, waiting for the sun to rise so I can go back home.

The only other place in Los Angeles where I can fall asleep easily is my close friend M’s bed. Her crisp white sheets exude the same lavender as my mother’s clothes did all those years ago. Whether we are watching Mrs. Fletcher or listening to music, I often find myself happily dozing off, this time next to a member of my chosen family.


Is there a scent memory you would like to share with us? Email us at and let us know!


Author: Kimberly McBride for Ourside