Her youth leader had one of those books written to break ice and force people to reveal little known facts about themselves, the kind that are a lot of fun if you relax into the silliness of it all but causes some people to freeze into glaciers.
They were having fun.
Jessi pitched the next question, innocuous to most but crossing an invisible line for my daughter.
"What are your favorite comfort smells?"
She didn't not answer because she had no response; she didn't answer because she did…
* * * * *
"Head & Shoulders," she tells me. "Head & Shoulders shampoo because when I smell it, it reminds me of you." Home.
Home is where the mom is I think to myself.
When time was measured in months and toddlers, little had I known that when I woke her up in the mornings after showering, or kissed her good night after I washed my hair, somehow…
scent created memory.
"Sun-ripened Raspberry from Bath and Body, too," she continued, and I have to admit I was glad her scent-memory wasn't limited to dandruff shampoo. For years I slathered my body in intoxicating Sun Ripened Raspberry lotion at least once a day.
I wonder how different it would smell if I slathered myself in real berries ripened by the sun.
Why are my thoughts always so random and peculiar?
* * * * *
It occurs to me, my initial response to "comfort smells" revolves around food–chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven, spaghetti bubbling on the stove, freshly brewed coffee–but her answer gets me to thinking of people.
Cigars remind me of my father. Though the scent is far from appealing, it's the comfort and memory of him (though he didn't gnaw smoke them for ten years prior to his death).
Jean Nate and wintergreen remind me of my grandmother. The thought of both make me smile. When we were little, after bath ritual included us wiggling naked face down on a towel on our bed, and she would quickly douse our shoulders, back and legs with wintergreen alcohol. It was my first spa treatment, one I haven't had since, but a memory that floods my heart.
"Sick breath" reminds me of my children as babies. Remember that? I'd know when they were really sick by their breath; it wasn't that they needed to brush their teeth, it was symptom that told me more than any doctor ever could. Of course, the smell of freshly bathed baby is the purest, sweetest scent of them all.
Clean. My husband. Breathing the back of his neck when he's freshly showered stops me in my tracks. I never get tired of that smell.
* * * * *
I try and I try but I cannot remember a scent that reminds me of my mother. Which I don't think I've ever considered before, but in this moment makes me incredibly sad. I feel cheated, robbed of something I'm entitled to…which sounds ridiculous and overly dramatic as soon as I confess it.
Can I make it be boiled shrimp? I remember her boiling shrimp one time and I HATED it then (but love 'em now); so can I forever thread together that scent and my mom because it's all I can remember?
This thought bunny trail makes me appreciate all the more the comfort smells of my daughter and the revelation that her comfort scents are tied to me.
She's done me a favor; I'll have no problems figuring out what to send in her college care packages now.