Monday, January 31, 2011

The Smell of Pansy

What do making dinner and a Guinea Pig named Pansy have in common?


I was rinsing off some celery stalks so Spud could chop them up for me before I added them to the dish I was making for dinner and as I held them over the sink and rinsed, the smell of the celery wafted up into my nostrils and with lightening speed, into my brain's Limbic System (the part of the brain related to smell and memories) and I immediately thought of Pansy. I have not thought of her in eons. To be honest, I had forgotten Pansy had ever crossed my life's path until the celery smell brought her crashing back to the forefront of my conscious mind.

(Dear family members, pardon me if I mis-remember the events, dates and times of Pansy's stay with us.)

Pansy came into my life, as well as those of my family members, through my little brother Michael. Michael's second-grade teacher asked if he would take Pansy, the school year was ending and Pansy needed a home.

Pansy was your average Guinea Pig, just under 2-3 pounds and 8-10 inches long. She was black and white and I imagine she resembled her ancestors who hailed from the Andes. Guinea Pigs have been domesticated in South America for hundreds of years. They were and are raised for food there (I wonder if they taste like chicken? Awww come on, you were thinking it too). 16th century European traders helped Guinea Pigs become the pets we know and love today. Queen Elizabeth the first had a pet Guinea Pig.

Pansy was sweet. I remember her distinctive whistle. She whistled over just about anything. She loved lettuce, carrots and celery (this is where the smell-memory enters the picture) but she particularly enjoyed eating the grass when we would let her outside. We would take her cage, remove the bottom, place her in the grass and put the bottom-less cage over her. When she finished the grass in that spot we would move her to a new one.

Pansy was part of our family for maybe about a year.

Of all the senses, smell is the strongest associated with memory. My sense of smell is particularly strong/sensitive (just ask anyone in my family). Does this trait make my memories stronger, more vivid? I don't know. I have never experienced someone else's smell-induced memories. I liken the question to one I have asked Yam and Spud in the past..."Am I a good Mom?", to which Yam answered, "I don't know, you're the only one I've ever had." Cheeky little monkey.

I have cooked with celery many times since knowing Pansy, I don't know why this time it triggered my memory of her, I just know it made me smile.


  1. Pansy was a wonderful little pet, she died doing what she liked best, sunbathing.

  2. When you are a little kid you don't realize that the shade will move. There for pansy died from heat stroke. Blame me. Nice story Jill. I too have not thought of her. Michael