Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Scent of Time's Passage

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I realized something was not right the moment I stepped inside his closet. I was only there to grab his laundry basket and for the first time in years of doing this, I found myself in an unfamiliar zone in my own home. For the first time I felt as if my crossing the threshold from bedroom to closet became more than just a literal experience. Crossing this threshold today both dampened and sent panic to every cell in my body, and at that point, there was nothing worse for me than being able to smell the truth.

I suppose I should first tell you that I’m extremely olfactory. I’m very sensitive to odors and I wouldn’t be surprised if my husband told you how it sometimes feels like he’s married to a bloodhound. We’ve always joked about that one night early on in our marriage when he went out with the guys and I was told they were headed to the bar. I thought nothing of it and enjoyed the evening by myself and hit the sack early. Later that night, as he sneaked quietly next to me in bed, I was roused from my sleep not by his movement but by the way he smelled. I sat up and sniffed him. Instead of inhaling just the typical boys’ night out smellyou know, that combination of musk, cigarette smoke and alcoholmy nose was assaulted by this heavy, saccharine-sweet, strawberry scent of cheap lotion.

“You guys went to a strip club, didn’t you?!” 

He chuckled like a naughty kid caught in the act and couldn’t believe I was able to guess. It’s such a distinct smell that’s quite hard to forget. I have only been to a strip club once, out of curiosity, and what mostly stuck out for me was not what I saw but what I smelled. From that point on, I had made up my mind that there must be a prescribed stripper lotion. And my husband made up his mind too that denying anything to me is futile especially when odors are left as evidence.

So when I stepped inside my son's closet and sniffed a different smell, I knew the evidence was all around me and that I've just been in denial for the longest time. 

My 'baby' is not a baby anymore. 

Instead of not smelling anything at all, or at times even detecting a hint of baby powdery scent, this time I inhaled the smell of sour, salty, sun-drenched sweat. When I would open that closet door before, it was as if I was being greeted by friendly, happy gnomes who met me with smiles and flowers and a joyous dance. This time, I was overpowered by this vision of a tired ogre, heavy and gross. 

My son is just eight, definitely still a good distance away from puberty. But at this stage I am already definitely detecting the changes, more than I would happily acknowledge. When you're a parent, the changes that you resist make their appearance way before your eyes perceive them. 

It's in the smell of their heads. The scent becomes more intense, more sweat than baby shampoo or the fresh, light smell of infancy.

It's in what we hear, the changes in their voice or their tone when they reason with us and learn to argue. Their words become more complex and so does their logic, which causes you ambivalence as you toggle between admiration and exasperation, pride and regret.

It's what your fingertips feel when you stroke their hair and you know it's coarser and thicker.

It's the slight jolt or confusion you can't quite process when you notice that he now just walks past you sometimes after the school bus brings him back home in the afternoon and you ask yourself, "Where are my hugs and kisses?

And then your heart can't seem to catch up to what your mind already knows when on weekend mornings you start to notice that he no longer enters your room and jumps on your bed as soon as he wakes up, and instead walks downstairs eager to do his own 'stuff' like video games, books or YouTube. All of a sudden you start to think you're losing your mind for resenting having a lot of extra minutes in bed, the very thing you said you'd kill for just a few years back.  

Perhaps children are designed to transform into something less endearing, even a bit repulsive to their own parents, something that would create more distance between parent and child. Perhaps the transformation is nature's way of urging us, parents, to slowly let our children go.

I know I have a few more years before the real stink and grossness all set in. I have a boy after all. But until then, I will continue to enjoy all the baby soft skin he still has, the very few soft and fine strands of hair I still catch glimpses of here and there, as well as the sensation of my son's tiny fingers twirling my hair to help him relax at bedtime. I know every single day brings me closer to the expiration date of all these simple gifts I've been given but I find comfort in knowing that one thing shall never ever change...

He will always be my baby, no matter what. And I am entitled to be in denial about that for as long as I want.










12 comments:

  1. I definitely do not envy you in the next few years. It seems like puberty starts earlier and earlier, either that or I am just getting old. Just remember than when he hits about 12, NEVER touch the socks on the floor.

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    1. I will remember that advice, Rena. LOL! Thanks!!

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  2. My baby just turned 27. And I'm STILL in denial. I'm Cleopatra, the Queen of denial! :)

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    1. I'm with you on that, Diane. I say we deny for as long as we live! ;-)) Thanks so much for stopping by!

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  3. well written, like most of your articles. I dabbed baby lotion on my son for as long as my hubby would let me (till he was seven) and dreaded each day I smelled "maturity"... even so I hang onto that until I'm ready to let go.

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    1. Julie, I keep looking for the cologne brands that we grew up using, although they may be a bit girly. But I don't care. Problem is, I can't find them here in the U.S....Denenes, Nenuco, Chicco, etc.....Good luck to us and our boys! Thanks for stopping by :-))

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  4. For me, it was shoes. The sight of my kids shoes (usually in a heap by the door) - the same size or bigger than mine would turn my heart to ice. Where did all those years go, from the time when I could pick up one of their shoes and they would fit in the palm of my hand. An excellent post Joy - you have captured the passage of motherhood very eloquently!

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    1. Thank you, Susan and glad you liked the essay! These kids are growing too fast. *sob, sob* :-((

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  5. My boys will be 16 & 17 next month. And yes, the smell gets worse, much, much worse!

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    1. Uh-oh....I'm really bracing myself now, Marie. I guess I should start stocking up on lysol, candles or just clothespins to pinch my nose with. ;-)

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  6. Could've written it myself, but I'm glad you did... I couldn't have gottent through it... Thank you Joy, for speaking for me, for many of us, and encouraging us to face and embrace the truth. xoxoxo

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    1. I'm responding so late and I apologize. Thank you so much for such kind words. I'm truly glad and honored to know I'm not alone and in good company. :)

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