Sunday, May 3, 2009

The smells of two families

After many years of not wearing scent, I have re-entered the world of fragrance. It’s such a primitive sense that I stopped wearing perfume the day Lydia was born. I wanted her to know and bond with my smell, and I didn’t want anything artificial intruding between that sense and me.

I’d had the idea for years before her birth, but during pregnancy my own sense of smell was so exaggerated that I said to myself, I have to do this. My baby will need to know who I am. When I see dogs outdoors after a rain, scampering after scents here and there, it reminds me of how I was bombarded by smells during those months. This food or that became totally noxious, totally rotten, totally disgusting when nobody else knew what I was talking about.

You've heard the jokes about pregnant women and pickles? I can recall craving cucumbers, but pickles would do. The taste, the texture, the smell. I can't explain why a cucumber smell is the same as a pickle smell, but both were ... oh, just spectacularly wonderful. Smelling and eating a pickle would just ease all the frayed edges. Even as I recall the experience, I can hear the crisp crunch of a good cucumber or really excellent pickle ... even the memory is soothing. (Just writing about it is sending shivers down my arms.)

Now we know about the vomeronasal organ, which perceives the information we might (or might not) recognize as a smell. Microscopic molecules of a substance reach the inside of our nose, reaching small “pits” there — and that’s how smells are interpreted.

Sometime when I was first married to Lydia’s dad, I rolled over to his side of the bed when he wasn’t there — and realized how much he smelled like my aunt Betsy! (in whose bed I had often slept as a child). Along the line I noticed that Lydia herself carries the same scent, a little bit cinnamon, a little bit burned mandarin. I guess we come from toasty orange families.


LSS riverrun said...

1.) Aren't pickles made from cucumbers?
2.) For the two years I was a pharmaceutical sales rep (called in the business a "detail man") I was on a mission to find the perfect perfume for me. Sometime during my work day, I'd stop off at department store perfumery, select a scent and spray my wrists. As the day wore on, I'd smell my writs and see what I thought. I took notes, which I'd love to find sometime. I didn't find the perfect perfume and don't wear any, but maybe I'l renew my quest.

Anonymous said...

I often wonder what I smell like. I get complimented on it often. It's nice to think about it being cinnamon and burnt mandarin.