Wake Up and Smell the Hyacinths

January’s theme was hibernation and I logged in a lot more hours of sleep, reading in front of the fire, reflecting on 2017 and planning for the year ahead. February begins the countdown to spring. As someone highly attuned to flowers and fragrance, I become downright giddy when I am in the company of hyancinths. They remind me of my grandmother’s garden and Easter celebrations. They are especially magical when forced from a bulb in a simple glass container in your home. They smell heavenly and are the right combination of showy and sturdy.

Memories surrounding smell are also on my mind based on a new writing project I am undertaking with my 22-year old son, Simon. We are sharing and reflecting on memories we chose that correspond to a seasonal framework of spring, summer, fall and winter. January’s memory was based on a concert at his pre-school, Mon Ami in Royal Oak, Michigan. My story included a mash-up of the joys and anxieties of early parenting and the pride of seeing your child perform and build confidence. His was centered around smells:

I have a couple of memories that stand out from my pre-k time and most of them are associated with smells. The first and most potent is the type of hand soap that was used in the bathrooms. It was a particular type of soap that I still run into. It brings back a flood of images of the small bathrooms in Mon Ami with stools that led up to the sinks that held cups with individual toothbrushes inscribed with the names of all of the kids. After lunch we would all line up outside of the bathrooms and when it was our turn, we’d grab our toothbrushes and look into the mirrors and watch the other kids mostly to see how they were brushing their teeth so we could know that we were doing it right. Learning as we were, just getting a finger hold on being a person in the world.

The second memory that I have is tied in with comfort. It was the smell of my mom’s coat when she would come inside and pick me up. She used to wear this black coat that was made out of thick cotton, but on the collar and the cuffs, it was fringed with a very soft wool. When I would see her walk into the building or she would call me over as I was playing with the other kids, I would hug her and bury myself in that coat and the smell would be of crisp, clean, cold air. It was something different than the warmth of the inside and the first inkling in my mind that the world was a bigger place. She had come from an outside world that I had not yet began to explore, but that I knew was outside of that school.

So, let’s get this straight: I was wrapped up in my pride and the joys and anxieties of parenting. Meanwhile, my 3-year old son was focused on the smell of soap, learning from his peers and took comfort in the smell of my coat. The smell of my coat! Learning as we were, just getting a finger hold on being a person in the world. Now there’s a life lesson that smacks you right between the eyes and breaks open your heart. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.