Even to this day, the scent of Chanel No.5 terrifies me.
Not because of its light and relaxing fragrance. Or its iconic black casing. But because growing up Chanel No.5 meant one thing.
Grandma was coming to babysit.
That was not good.
There would be no games, zero stalling, an early bedtime, and no use of the good hand towels. And by “good” I don’t mean fancy, monogrammed ones; we didn’t have that kind. “Good” to Grandma meant the ones that weren’t threadbare. She’d actually put away the soft towels and dig around in the linen closet for the ones my mom used for dusting. Grandma was hard-core depression era.
But back to Chanel. My mom didn’t wear a lot of it. Just a few dabs on her wrist and a touch or two behind her ears. Always a special occasion that required the application of eye shadow and the reemergence of her engagement ring. Things unnecessary for evenings at home. With us. And the scent of the perfume, along with the steam from the bathroom made No.5 seep into the furniture and linger in the air all night long. A reminder that Mom wasn’t home and if she didn’t make it back alive we’d get stuck living with the yellow boat car driving, polyester pant-suit wearing, pregnant looking Grandma who bought the cheap markers that dried up as soon as you opened the package. On those nights I hid at the top of the stairs until I witnessed my parents walk through the door and heard Grandma’s boat chug down the street.
So maybe it’s masochistic, but I’ve always wondered what smell would define me to my kids or make them panic at the thought of my departure. Would it be my everyday light mist of a Bath and Body Works spray? Or would it be my going out Armani? Turns out I needn’t have worried because ONE and TWO love their babysitters so much that ONE often asks if I would just leave so the sitters could come over. And at the word, “babysitter” TWO jumps up and down and yells, “YA! YA! YA!”
I had all but given up hope on leaving a fragrant imprint on my offspring when we entered the park the other day. And as we passed a woman on a bench ONE stopped short and exclaimed,
“MAMA! She smells just like you!”
I died a little inside.
First because of the general mom humiliation that comes when your kid exclaims something you have to physically turn around to understand and second, because the woman was spraying herself with Cutter. The Bug Spray.
THAT is what I smell like to them.
Not Armani. Not Bath and Body Works. Not even Chanel No.5 (which I swore I’d never own, but at this point, I might as well).
This Mom-Thing just gets better and better.
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