Mothers, Children and the Scents that Bond Us
In my mind, motherhood smells of breast milk and boiling diaper laundry. Both quite delicate yet very distinct. Whenever my mom had a new baby (and like most of the women in the village - she’s done it quite often), these scents immediately took over the entire home and created a certain magical atmosphere that lingered as long as the baby was breast-fed and hasn’t started crawling yet.
And than, of course, a baby’s crown, quickly covered with unsightly yellow crust that emanates a golden glow of a lost cherub. I won’t bore you with theories about how mothers and children bond through the scent of mother’s milk and baby’s head respectively; none really explain why a baby’s smell is so inexplicably sweet and intoxicating. Babies take over a room with their perfume yet the needn’t apologize ever for their olfactory occupation. They smell incredibly sweet even to strangers, but magically perfect to their mothers and relatives.
I chose the photo above to illustrate this blog entry because I truly identify with that family. Whenever my mom had a baby, I felt I have experienced motherhood quite intensely through her own struggles and little joys. I helped her with nearly everything – calming my little brothers down , watching them play and play with them, sing them lullabies and what not. So when I had my own daughter I was quite experienced. And although I didn’t need to boil the soiled diapers in gigantic caldron with olive-oil soap-flakes, my home filled with the lovely baby’s smell.
Added to the mix of breast milk and baby crown were the seasonal fruit of early fall – guavas, the first tangerines, and milky custard fruit that my mom spoiled me with when I was just beginning to breast feed (a spontaneous tradition developed in my village that new mothers get fed by the other women for between 2 weeks to a month – every day someone brings something, to help the new family get used to the new life and responsibility). Whenever I smell a guava I immediately think of that time of my life. And it’s not exactly surprising that my daughter loves guava juice (the fruit she hasn’t had much luck getting acquainted with – it doesn’t travel well and she was very suspicious when I tried to offer it to her). There are other fruits that bond us – melons, which were the only thing I could eat in my first couple of weeks of pregnancy (aside from strawberries and bananas). It’s interesting to see how those random preferences make their mark on a child’s future taste in food. We also both love coconut tremendously (something she certainly did not get from her father!).
As a memoir for this time of my life of new motherhood, I have created my daughter’s namesake perfume (you can read more about it here) and it was influenced by the time of the year when Tamya was born, the flowers that bloomed and the ripe autumn fruit.
I will never forget the first time that my daughter indicated recognition of an aroma. She was eating a candy necklace and suddenly claimed “banana”. I was so happily surprised to find that the yellow ones did indeed taste and smell like “bananas” (or the caricature of bananas as it’s portrayed to us by the flavour industry). It was an indication that she can categorize smells and that was such an exciting moment!
When she was little, I made her a little blend for relaxation and named it “Petit Parfum”. The scent of lavender, lemon, rosewood, sandalwood, agarwood and neroli put together was balancing and calming and she used to apply it to her wrist by herself before bed time.
Although I’m sure her strengths and source of pleasure is first and foremost music and the computer - it’s fun to have a daughter who is patient enough to go “perfume sniffing” and help me out with labeling the packages for shipping. She can recognize a bottle of perfume even if it looks very unusual.
Now that my daughter is growing and becoming more and more independent, the new notes that sing in our lives come and go. We have other common interests (besides food preferences). Three years ago, Tamya started therapeutic horseback riding at Southlands. This magical neighbourhood does not feel as if it belongs to Vancouver at all – but it does. The stables reek of all sorts of smells – tack leather, hay stacks, stinky boots and helmets, horse maneur, the intense aroma of fresh truckload of cedarwood chips and the unbearable stench of burnt nails when the farrier comes for a visit.
Happy mother's day!