Sunday, December 30, 2012


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Of our senses, sight is my strongest and the one that most affects me. Then it's touch, then taste. Sound and smell don't have much hold over me. All those friends who have soundtracks to their lives? I'm not one of them. They mystify me, like foreigners speaking other languages. I enjoy music if someone happens to put it on but mostly I'm a podcast girl.

And smell? I don't know. It's nice when the windows are open and the house smells fresh. It's awful when the garbage smells like too many diapers. But like sound, smell doesn't much capture my attention and it's that particular sense that I think is least developed in me. My mother complains of garbage smell from across a room when I have to be right next to the can to notice it. E has her own vocabulary word for men who smell sweaty (they have the nussels) and she shies away from the odor that I can't identify until I'm wrapped in a hug.

Maybe because I don't have many scent associations, when we had kids I was determined to create theirs. I'm not much of a perfume wearer but I decided that I'd find myself a signature scent. Babies have all that skin-to-skin time with their mamas. Kids always want snuggles. I wanted a perfume that, years later, would make them think of me. I didn't know if it would work. I know, for example, that my mom always wore Jean Naté. I can't at all conjure up its scent, though. But I perfectly remember the loopy black font on the bottle.

Still, I found a perfume that smelled perfect to me, and when the babies were babies, I wore it every day. If I hadn't showered in two days and was covered in spit-up, I still put on a little perfume each morning. I was diligent through three newborn phases and three times I eventually lost the habit. And now if I have an extra minute or I'm feeling unusually pretty or I want to mark an occasion as fancy, I might wear some perfume. But I couldn't really call it a habit.

A few weeks ago the girls discovered my pittance of a perfume collection. There's the bottle I bought with such intention before E's birth, the bottle given to me in friendship from one of the daycare teachers, the bottle I bought in Belgium to use up the excess of Belgian francs I had converted, and a few minis and free samples from various places. They smelled everything with such curiosity.

It was bedtime, and they were rosy cheeked and just scrubbed. They smelled minty fresh. Their hair was damp. Their pajamas were on. We were waiting for something, maybe their daddy to bring up their cups? and they found these little glass bottles that they've never paid any mind to before and they were fascinated. It was the end of a long, celebratory day.

"Hey, chickies, since it's L's birthday, do you want to wear a little perfume to bed for a special treat?" They clamored to choose. I hadn't told them which was the one I'd worn intentionally when they were little. E picked out the bottle from Belgium, and L surprised me by picking that bottle of her babyhood, commenting that the smell reminded her of me. My heart smiled as I sprayed them each lightly.

Last week: hey, Mama! Since it's your birthday, can I wear some of your perfume to bed?

Today: hey, Mama! Since it's [the lovely husband's sister's] birthday today, can we have perfume?

And you know? Why not? Maybe this is the scent memory that will form. Both times I assented. Both times I kissed the girls goodnight among gentle clouds of bergamot and cocoa.

I do believe in celebrations big and small. And anyway, we don't have much extended family.

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