Smell You Later

May 23, 2015

When I go back to Hawaii, I take in the smells just as much as the sights. The plumeria and pikake surfing the tradewinds. Shoyu and mac salad vapors rising from plate lunches. Sunscreen mixing with saltwater, triggering palpitations at the thought of a boogie board ride.

However, there is one smell that trumps them all. It’s the olfactory assault that I encounter at Kailua Beach. When I was growing up, our friends the Kims lived right on this stretch of pristine sand. They were good to us. We took swimming lessons in their pool, followed by typing lessons in their house. Other days, we would jump waves and go boogie boarding on their beach, which we dubbed Kims’ beach. Afterwards, we would come back to feed their koi and enjoy fresh coconut. Good enough to make a five-year-old build a mind palace.

Of course I can’t even really describe the smell of this place. Not all of it is entirely pleasant. There was always a certain damp mustiness to it, and maybe the koi and fish food had something to do with it. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that I could easily recognize this smell, even if someone were to bottle it and place it in the well-manicured hands of one of those highly-intimidating perfume spritzers who works at Macy’s. One squirt on the wrist and those memories are all coming back to me like a Celine Dion song.

Presently, my nostrils are delighting in another pleasant-unpleasant scent combination. When Elliot wakes up from a nap, he is a hot mess. When it comes to sweating, this kid leads with the head. Or maybe his stench just gets tangled in his curls. At any rate, to the neutral nose, my son’s post-sleep smell must be vile at worst and wretched at best.

And yet, by heaven, I think his stink as fair, as any other child belied with highly-shampooed hair.

Today, he woke up cranky from a nap. He wanted up from his crib, then down from my arms. Of course he cried when I put him down, so I picked him up. He was sobbing for his mommy. He wanted to read. Then he didn’t. His irrationality led me to believe that he didn’t get enough sleep. He is my kid after all.

So I snuggled him. Against his will at first, but then he relaxed. He pulled his knees in to my chest. He tried to bury his hands somewhere on my body. Against my stomach. Around my sides. In my armpits. He was desperate, I guess. He turned his sweaty head and laid it against my neck. Rather than think about all the neck acne he was probably sending my way, I chose to take in the bouquet that had been fermenting in his crib for a number of hours.

Along with the edges of his brown curls against my lips and his little whisper breaths, his scent was so comforting. I wish I could bottle it, because I know how the feelings of overwhelming love would rush in with each whiff. I know that I would remember the feeling of safety that came from the embrace of his miniature arms. I know that I could hear his “love yous” filling me like a beach ball.

I’m not sure how much longer this current edition of Eau de Elliot will be around for. Maybe it will come back with a vengeance during puberty, which would be perfect, since our relationship will probably need a little more awkwardness at that time. What could be better for one’s social life than having your dad sniff you?

But I suppose I shouldn’t worry about what won’t be. For now, I’ll just take in everything I can. And one day, after I’ve built my mind palace, I’ll be thankful that I actually did inhale.

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2 Responses to “Smell You Later”

  1. George Says:

    Sweaty little heads, I love ’em. Thanks for evoking my memories, Ronn.

  2. Colleen Says:

    Aw! Love sweaty baby smell. Jude is positively vile – he drools something fierce and gets this fermenting saliva smell mixed in with the sweat & Emma’s hot little head smell mixes with dragon breath brought on by enormous tonsils . . . it would take a parent to actually appreciate these scents and the snuggles they accompany!


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