My God, when Mari was born, I was mesmerized by her scent. I mean, I’d find myself just burying my nose in her neck and her belly and her shiny little toes and inhaling and thinking that she was absolutely delicious. I don’t know if it was the baby powder or the baby lotion or the baby soap or the Dreft or just the baby or a combination of all of them together, but it was an elixir–an addictive, yummy elixir that would send me swooning.
Mari and I were talking about this the other day, while I was whipping up dinner. She looked up lazily from her homework and started grilling me about my favorite colors and songs and sounds and smells, and I got totally stuck on describing that baby smell of hers, and then dutifully shined the light back on her:
Me: So, what’s your favorite smell?
Mari: Well, I like the way sunscreen smells–it reminds me of the beach. And I love the beach.
Me: I know that’s the truth.
Mari: And I like the smell of the Christmas tree early in the morning, especially when we’re ripping open presents.
Me: Mmm… I love that smell, too.
Mari: Ooh, and cinnamon cookies in the over–that smell makes my mouth water.
Me: Oh yeah!
Mari: And I really love the smell of laundry detergent, especially Tide. It makes me chew my tongue.
Me: Weird. You were digging laundry detergent even when you were in my belly. I used to want to eat Tide. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.
Mari: I love the way you smell, too. You have that mommy smell—it’s there whenever I hug you. It makes me want to hug you more.
Now, who knew? I mean, I wear a special lotion from Bath & Body Works that keeps the proactive ash at bay, but also happens to smell pretty nice, and Nick really likes it because it’s a fresh, clean, earthy scent. But I didn’t realize it made Mari a little loopy, too. Imagine that: My baby girl-turned-big girl, whose baby smell has been soundly replaced by deodorant and Renuzit Sports spray (to keep the funk of 1,000 soccer games at bay), thinks I smell delicious, too.
I’ve arrived, you know. I remember thinking the same thing about my mom, too. She used to use this special lotion by Fashion Fair that she could only purchase at the cosmetics counter at Macy’s, and no one in the house was allowed to use it but her. It was expensive, see—like, $15 a bottle, which was a big deal for her working class budget—so the only one who could smell like that Fashion Fair lotion was the person willing to splurge fifteen ducats to wear it.
I suppose that’s what made it special.
And when my mom passed away, her scent seemed to fill every crevice of the home she and my Dad shared; it was on the blankets and in her closets and on her scarves and church hats and purses. Her jewelry, even.
Believe it or not, almost 10 years after she went on to fly with the angels, the box in which I keep her jewelry still smells like that lotion—like my mom. I try not to open it too much, for fear that her scent will wear off. But on special occasions—Mother’s Day, mommy’s birthday, the anniversary of her death, the rare occasions when she visits me in my dreams—I’ll open up that box and breathe in deep and remember my mommy’s Mommy Smell.
How amazing, then, to find out I have one of my own—a signature scent that reminds my daughter of me.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.