The Smell of Summer Camp

When I stepped outside this morning, I was struck at once with a smell that hung in the air. The sky was clear and bright, with a few low morning clouds drifting in the gathering light. The air felt like summer, not heavy and humid, but not the morning cool of spring either.

But it was the smell that struck me. All at once, I was a kid again, awaiting the bus that would take me to the YMCA summer day camp I attended when I lived in Warwick, Rhode Island. It wasn’t a passing reflection, it was a powerful three-dimensional vision, as if the smell in the air had somehow transported me whole back in time.

In later years, when I was no longer in summer camp, that smell in the air called to mind visits to my Grandparent’s house. Or hanging out in the mornings while my parents were at work, watching reruns of The Love Boat and Flipper until it was late enough in the morning when my friends would be awake and we could go out and play.

But that was later. This morning the air smelled just like those early summer mornings in New England. And for the briefest second, I was back there, and I remembered what it was like to be a kid, free from all of the accumulation of grown-up responsibilities.

When it was over, all of the usual stress that weighs on me was gone.

No wonder they say that smell is a powerful sense.


  1. Down here in Houston, I get that same sensation. There’s a day version of it (complete with freshly cut grass, charcoal, etc.) and the night version (the smell of hot cement, the ‘smell’ of the humidity). I love it.


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