What Smell Am I Grateful For?

Welcome aboard, train wreck.

It’s that time again. Time to list everything we’re grateful for. Even if it’s just for social clout. Because Gosh forbid, you don’t display your gratitude on Facebook like Grandma’s silver at Thanksgiving.

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I, too, have fallen victim to the Gratitude Game. While I am grateful for my house, my job, and all that other mundane stuff, I wanted to dive a little deeper and look at this gratitude thing from a mom’s perspective. This is an older post from the first version of this blog that I eventually turned into a book. Until I publish again, that book is not available. Until then, I give you the smell I’m most grateful for.

My nose experiences a slew of smells on a daily basis. Some pleasant, some reminiscent of a Long John Silvers’ dumpster fire. We can smell cookies on the breath after we say brush your teeth. We can tell the difference between hands washed with soap and the just rinsed variety. One sniff of a bath towel can reveal how long it has been under the bed of your teenager.

As a mother I can tell you there is no limit to the nose hair burning odors the body can produce. Their rooms are just as bad. While searching for the correct Tyrannosaur (blue with red stripes, not the red one with blue stripes he was playing with) I found a stash of chocolate chip cookies with the chocolate chips picked out, a stick of string cheese colonized by 46 different strains of mold and bacteria, and a sippy cup once full of milk turning into chocolate mozzarella.

About a month ago there was a banging at my front door. As I opened it I was greeted by police officers with a cadaver dog. The dog led them right to my teen daughter’s favorite sweatshirt. They found it under a greasy, week old pizza box, a blanket the cats nap on, and something labeled “inorganic substance.” Upon its discovery, my daughter walked over to the police officer holding the sweatshirt with tongs and a gloved hand and said, “Oh hey, thanks, I’ve been looking for that.” She hasn’t taken the shirt off since. I’m convinced it’s fused with her skin. Soon her brain.

For every one of these vomit inducing odors, there is one to counteract it. The smell of the Christmas cookies I bake with my daughter and give out to friends and family. The sweet, sweaty scent of my toddler after playing at the playground. The waymy son’s bubble baths remind me of the ones I took when I was little. I’ve even come to appreciate the mundane smells that make it seem like I actually cleaned my house. I love the smell of the orange dishwasher soap mixing with the tropical breezes laundry detergent from my washing machine. Oh dear Lord, I’m pretty sure that’s the most domestic thing I’ve ever said. I’ve even gotten used to the bonfire aroma that permeates my clothes after hanging them on the dry line.

And of course there will always be the powerful connections between memories and scent. The limbic system of our brains works on a primordial system where scent is the difference between life and death. As modern day humans, scent has the ability to transport us through distance and time. Garlic and spaghetti sauce will always take me back to the little two bedroom apartment where my grandparents lived. Grandma used so much garlic it permeated into the wood, walls, carpet, and furniture. Spend enough time there and no vampire would come within a hundred yards of you, even the glittery, sparkly kind. After a visit to my grandmother’s I heard footsteps following me through the tunnel back home. Several old, Italian men had been following me because I “smelled like Mama.”

Trying to nail down one smell that I’m grateful for is like trying to herd cats. There are so many and each has its own reason for being my favorite at that moment. Soapy scents mean my house and clothes are clean, or at least my version of clean. Food cooking means I’m going to eat, and let’s face it, Mama didn’t get fat by not eating. Citrus and herb has always been a favorite for me. Crisp, clean, natural, uplifting. All the things I want to infuse in my life. And lets not forget the powerful aroma of coffee. Oh coffee, how I love thee. The smell of coffee brewing in the coffee pot is enough to raise this mombie from the slumber of a thousand exhausted parents.

Of all these I would have to say it’s the smell of my kids when we snuggle. There is still a sweetness under all the hair gel, body spray, and teen angst when my Bunny hugs me or sits next to me on the couch. Granted this doesn’t happen often. Usually she’s barricaded herself in the den of darkness and anime that is her room.

“I keep it dark and cold like my soul,” she announced when I asked why she needed forty two blankets on her bed.

“Well maybe if you joined the rest of the family more often your soul would fill with happiness, kittens, glitter, and rainbows.” This was not the right response. Good thing the only one that heard it was her closed bedroom door.

Maybe that’s why I waited ten years to have another baby. Just as the Bunny was reaching tween pre puberty I had the T-Rex. Someone who wouldn’t backtalk or roll his eyes at my lame jokes. Someone who didn’t mind I hadn’t had a shower in three days and couldn’t remember what my toothbrush looked like. A little beautiful baby that didn’t criticize my singing.

And let me tell you, babies are addictive. Maybe not babies, but definitely the way they smell. Baby powder, baby lotion, baby wash, baby laundry soap, and babies in general. The universe had this planned from the beginning. Babies secrete a hormone in the oil of their skin that is narcotic when inhaled and completely enslaving when absorbed through the lips. A little known fact is that women have a nerve that’s runs from her lips and nose to her ovaries. Have you noticed how every woman smells a baby’s head? That slow, deep, intentional inhale, the held breath for about five seconds more, and the slow exhale that sounds like a dog looking a steak. Her eyelids may flutter a bit as her eyes roll into the back of her head. That’s how you know she’s got the fever, baby fever. She may need time in quarantine. Baby fever is highly contagious.

That’s how it happened to me. One sniff of a baby at the daycare and I was walking around looking for my next fix. I walked into the nap room just to get a whiff of those fluffy little heads as they dreamed of bottles, bears, and binkies. I knew I needed help when my sister caught me in the closet huffing one of the baby’s hats.

That was four years ago and now I have toddler, a direct result of baby fever. When he curls up with me at night and drifts to sleep with that sweet, sleepy smile on his face I take a long, slow, deliberate sniff of his blonde head. I smell the salty, greasy French fries and dinosaur nuggets that make up ninety percent of his diet. I smell the scented marker he colored his legs with, green apple so he could be like the Incredible Hulk. And under all that I smell my baby. That same baby that was screaming, crying, kicking, and a little too yellow-orange for the doctor’s liking. I can still smell that on the Bunny. it’s not as strong as it used to be, but it’s there.

That’s the smell I’m grateful for. The smell of my babies. It helps me remember that no matter what the outside looks like, they are always my babies. No matter how black and empty her soul, or how mighty his Tyrannosaur tantrums get, they are my babies. For that I am grateful.

To help you keep track of what you’re grateful for, I’ve included these printables. You can give them to your Thanksgiving guests, family, or just use them to remind yourself that there’s something out there to be grateful for.

What smell are you grateful for? Let me know in the comments. Again, if you like what I post, please like, comment, share, and subscribe. Please consider donating to help keep this going. $1 and I’ll ask you what your favorite book is so we can talk about it. $5 and I’ll write a review of a book you suggest. $10 and I’ll write a blog suggested by you. That’s all I’ve got for today, train wrecks. All aboard.


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