Thursday, October 11, 2007

mama's boy

In nearly every respect, Levi is his father's boy. They look alike, they have the same bodies, they move with the same self-confidence. They both know just how to woo the ladies. They both have incredible rhythm. Temperamentally, too, they're similar--optimistic, laid-back, sociable, and frustratingly distractible. And while Ezra and Lilah are fairly certain I'm the one who hung the moon (and I am), Levi maintains (erroneously) that it's all Stupid Daddy's doing.

Lately, though, Levi and I have bonded over a shared quirk: we both love--I mean love--to smell things. I have always had a curious, overactive sniffer. Even as a little girl, I could tell just by the scent what kind of tea my father was drinking, or what kind of coffee he was brewing. I recognized perfumes and flowers and people. I wanted to smell the whole world.

It has never mattered to me whether the smell is wonderful or nauseating; as soon as I'm onto a scent, I inhale until I can identify it, until I can find it, until I can parse its many layers.

Once a few years ago I went to the doctor to be treated for what I thought was a yeast infection. Before examining me, he asked if I had noticed any odor.

"Do you have dogs?" I asked him.

"Yes," he said.

"Well, you know that smell when they bust an anal gland? It kind of smells like that mixed with the smell of an infected belly button, and a little bit of penny thrown in." It's like that for me.

He looked at me for a few seconds, his pen poised over his notes.

"I'll just put 'foul odor,'" he said.

In the last couple of weeks, Levi has been talking a lot about smells, and he seems to have inherited my olfactory interests and, dare I say, prowess.

"Let me smell you," he says as I walk by. I bend toward him, and he closes his eyes and sniffs deeply. "You smell good, Mommy. Like perfume. Like a bath."

If I wrinkle my nose and say, "Ooh, gross!"--after smelling a cup of milk that's been out too long or a container of hummus I've just discovered in the back of the fridge--he's right there on the scene to get a whiff. Dog poop, roses, new leather, doesn't matter what: he wants to smell it all.

A few nights ago, he called to me from bed, and I went upstairs to settle him back down again. As soon as I leaned over, he said, "Hey, you smell like what I had for lunch today!" And indeed I had just had a couple of bites of the pesto pasta from his lunch container. (Dinner for me is quite frequently my kids' leftovers.) I was impressed.

And then yesterday, Levi walked into the kitchen as I was baking a potato--one of Ezra's favorites and something neither he nor Lilah will even consider tasting--and without missing a beat said, "Ooh, yah. It smells like what Ezra eats."

It's really nice to see that even though I've got tinier bones and a darker complexion, even though I'm anxious and socially awkward, and even though I can't dance to save my life, there's a little bit of me in Levi after all.


tiny tin bird said...

I like this detailing of the fierce skill Levi inherited from you. But, to be honest with you I'm hanging on the edge of my seat a little. You see, unbeknownst to most, I have a bit of an overactive nose as well. So I'm sitting here thinking... wait, wait... Okay, I have dogs so I know that anal gland smell and have seen it on the vet's wall. (I know- and yes, it was disgustingly amazing.) I know about the penny smell because I somewhat obsessively count coins. And after a spring break whim and a piercing later, I know the infected belly button smell. But I don't know. I can barely stand it.

Deb Abramson said...

Um...Alyssa? Your cover is blown! Are you ready for gross? It was a festering tampon that had been jammed way up there. Funny thing is, the doc said that was the second time that week he'd seen a patient for this. And the best part--you know how medical professionals are totally cool with gore and stench? The nurse was waiting on the side with an open plastic bag, and as the doc extracted the tampon and dropped it in, I saw her wrinkle her nose in disgust.

tiny tin bird said...

I must say-- I did not see that one coming. Damn! But what a relief to have that answer. Now I know exactly what a festering tampon smells like. No hint of cardamom? I thought, well, nevermind. Thanks for the answer.