Monday, March 30, 2009

spring cleaning, mom, her scent.

it's spring time, everyone. rebirth, fresh starts.

a fresh start for our storage space to not be a nightmare teetery box maze.

shannon digs, and i examine the finds. much of it is mine, from our moves and our tribulations. the pressure to decide, item by item, on the importance of any individual thing of my mom's was simply too great, and i'm afraid i erred on the side of 'put it in storage and deal with it later.' shannon politely, sensitively, but firmly asked me to reexamine the boxes, so they could be labeled and stored properly.

one box was CDs of music i will never, ever listen to. vince gill, enya, so much andrea boccelli.

one box had binders and files and folders - receipts and deeds and notes and letters, none of them useful, aside from copies of the birth and death certificate of my grandfather, the commander.

as i pulled the flaps of one box back, it exhaled the smell of my mom, a punch in the stomach. it was a box of her clothes, the ones i hadn't given to goodwill. and they had retained her smell, despite being in a manky cardboard box, in our musty, dusty storage space.

the smell, you guys.

it was still there.

those are the things we lose and can't ever retain. i know i've written about it before, but it keeps coming back.

the smell of someone's life.

the texture of her skin.

the shape of her nails.

the contour of her shoulder meeting her neck, where my head fit perfectly.

the sound of her blowing her nose, first thing in the morning.

these are the things that fade away.

i know HER, in my bones, back to front.

i don't need her here to tell me how much she loved me, or that she was proud of me.
i don't need to ask her what she thinks about things because i can already just know.
i wear her jewelry all the time, her clothes and purses and shoes and scarves.
the archaeological record of her life was remarkably thorough.

it's the soft parts that decay first, is what i'm saying. the hard bones of her life surround me, but the feathers and fur and breath are going and mostly gone now.

except this box - this amazing, miraculous gift of a box.

for a few minutes, i could bury my face in her scent.

and, being me, as i marveled at the discovery, i was already preparing for the disappointment of its loss. just by smelling it i was mingling my own scent with hers, corrupting it, exposing it to the invisible smells of our house, our life, and all the things we take for granted.

i've been through this a million times, with various pieces of her clothing. i'll find it and realize it smells like her. i'll keep it, so i can smell it carefully, with restraint. can one sniff away all the scent molecules of something? is that possible? just in case, i practice moderation in my sniffs.

but then the temptation is too great, and i wear the item. and for a day or two, it's magic. the primal message of safety and security just wraps me up and i lose my head, forget moderation and planning for the future.

and then the smell is gone and i'm left with another piece of my mom's clothing, special for its proximity to her, but now smelling like boring old me. or, i imagine it smells like me, since i can't smell myself.

so i open the box, and bury my face in it. the clothes are silk and velvet - quintessential mom clothes. i tossed the t-shirts and sweat pants and athletic socks because who the fuck cares about them, but these are the clothes of her soul, basically, and i couldn't part with them. i burrow deeper and deeper into the box, pressing the cool fabrics to my face and inhaling a little bit gluttonously.

the smell isn't exactly right, actually, but it is very much closer than i've been in months.

i watched her die, in that hospital bed in her bedroom at home. i held her hand as the last breath left her, and her smell was the same, even as she died.

now i haunt the world a bit, always seeking that smell, sniffing after strangers, just in case. i look completely normal on the outside, calm and mostly untroubled, and i am. but there is always a part of me searching for her in everyone i see. you never know. maybe there are scent twins in the world somewhere, and i will find hers by chance. maybe that scent twin will recognize my scent, and we'll embrace like long-lost family and i can bury my face in this stranger's neck and feel like i'm home again.

1 comment:

lady luck said...

this is so beautiful.