Years ago, when the kids were very small, I realized that I had a very special talent.
It might have been due to my lovely, slightly-on-the-larger-side Roman nose or to my ever vigilant spidey sense when it came to protecting my allergic babies from dust, mold and animal dander. I don’t know for sure. But whatever its cause, when my kids were very small, I realized that I had developed Super Smell-finding Radar.
I could walk in my front door and immediately detect any one of a variety of offending odors, including, but not limited to:
dirty diapers, dirty diaper pail, moldy sneakers, chopped onion in the trash, melting crayon in the heater, jackets that had been in the house of a smoking friend, and someone who keeps forgetting to brush.
I was very sensitive.
I have never been a neat freak, and I would never, ever be nominated for housecleaner of the year, but bad smells just drive me crazy. As soon as I noticed any kind of noxious aroma, out came the lemon oil, the baking soda and the citrus spray cleaners. Sometimes I’d even bleach a load of white clothes just to fill the air with “laundry smell”!
Most of the time, I was successful in beating back the stink, and returning the house to its usual aroma of healthy, happy children and good food on the stove.
But about 15 years ago, I think, I was in my daughter’s cluttered bedroom, attempting to fit one more item into her tiny closet, when suddenly my Super Smell-finder began to tingle.
Actually, I think it began to burn, and my eyes started to water.
“Ugh! What is that horrible smell?“
For about a day, no one else in the house could smell it, but gradually the fumes became more pronounced, and even the boys noticed. It was a musty, slightly sweet, slightly smoky, purely funky stink. Once it got in your nose, you walked around with it for days, no matter how many times you tried to clear it out by breathing in coffee smell, flower smell or baby hair smell. It clung to your skin and your nose hairs like a coating of vaseline.
I hated it.
I spent about a week tearing the closet apart, cleaning, scrubbing, dusting, vacuuming the whole place into near oblivion. On the plus side, its probably the only time in her entire life that Kate has had a clean bedroom.
On the down side, we never found the source of Horrific Closet Smell. We suspected that a mouse had died behind the wallboard somewhere, and we just had to wait out the decaying process.
As time went on, Kate grew up and moved off to college. The room became Matt’s room, and the usual aroma in there changed from flowery body spray and expensive shampoo to manly deodorant and huge sweaty feet. Mostly it was fine, but every couple of years, I would be walking past the door, and my proboscis would react.
“Gah!!! Dead mouse!!!”
Out would come the bleach, the soap, the vacuum, the air freshener. The window would be opened, the closet purged. And no matter what, the stench would linger for a week or ten days, then slowly begin to fade away.
Well. It’s been two and a half years since the kids all moved out, and that little bedroom is now a computer room/storage room. The closet is relatively neat and the shelves are filled with photo albums and CD’s. It’s been nice. It didn’t stink.
Two days before the house fills with guests for the Thanksgiving feast, I stepped into the room to put away a book.
There it was: Horrific Closet Smell, in all its hideous glory.
I could smell it all night, in my bedroom across the hall. Invading my dreams, seeping into my consciousness as I slept.
And guess what?
I didn’t really mind!
Every time I came awake, I had a quick thought that the kids were home, and I felt happy. And I drifted back to sleep, a stench in my nose and a smile on my face.