Scratch, Write, and Sniff


When I was in grade school, a girl in my class introduced me to scratch and sniff markers. My mind was blown by strawberry-smelling ink.

For the next five years, our entire elementary class sniffed chemicals from tubes during art class. And at some point, we all tasted the chemicals as well, since it was impossible NOT to lick the green apple marker to see if it tasted like a Jolly Rancher. (For the record, it did not.)

Our teacher thought it was a terrific way to get us to color. And frankly, she was right. We would have colored a crossword puzzle if it meant sniffing our “bubble gum” pink markers. (It was ironic that we weren’t even allowed to chew bubble gum as first graders, which made that darn pink marker even more alluring. They might as well have given us a tobacco marker.)

In theory, scratch and sniff markers were a great idea. However, I’m sure that allowing students to sniff markers all day was not exactly the best idea for our brain development. And, using the markers could be confusing when you were distracted by your olfactory sense. Was it okay to color a tomato picture with the apple-smelling red marker? Should the blue boat really smell like blueberries? And did we really want to use the stinky black licorice marker in our favorite Hello Kitty coloring book?

Yet, those scratch and sniff markers will always have a place in my heart. (Let’s pray that they don’t have a place in my lungs.) They colored my world and taught me the love of art. I looked forward to creating something (anything) that my parents could hang on the fridge.

To this day, when I get a whiff of bubble gum in the checkout line of the supermarket, my mind drifts back to that pretty pink marker.

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