I think somewhere out there are mothers who smell the way I thought motherhood would smell; of vanilla and fresh baked bread and warmth. I am jealous of these mothers. My own motherhood smells like the onions of a thousand meals permeating cracked skin–a thousand refused meals prepared lovingly or automatically or bitterly depending on the day. It’s a lingering, sweaty smell. Every morning I scrub my hands with cheap jasmine body wash in a scalding shower but still it persists, these thousands of soaked in dinners.
Today I put on perfume, precious drops from a previous life. My daughter was there, wondering eyes wide at this utterly foreign act. She has never seen me put on perfume. She doesn’t know this smell or this mother. Neither do I anymore. I smell like grown up and abandon. For a moment I’m intoxicated by the bright, clean smell, by this reunion. I’ve come home to myself. But I raise my hands to my face and inhale and there, masked but present, is the smell of goddamn onions.
Someday it will fade. Someday I will wear expensive perfume again and small eyes won’t marvel at my every move. Someday I will become less vital to them, chopped vegetables giving way to microwaved pizza rolls on the run. Someday we will start eating takeout again, my husband and I, and someone else will do the chopping and I will pretend I don’t miss the pungent, ever present smell of onions.
But I will.