The Longest Shortest Time

Mommy, You Smell Eew

I can remember early on, in my first days at home alone with Sasha, letting out a giant fart. I mean, a real stinker. And her reaction being: nothing.

Nothing at all.

This is awesome! I thought. I could just let ’em rip without worrying what she’d think or say. That lasted about 3-and-a-half years. Until one day, she suddenly woke up with a superhero’s sense of smell. And her new favorite word: Eew.


Forget farts; that’s a given. This girl can smell a garbage truck three blocks away, from inside the car. The faintest whiff of gasoline on a frozen winter day. Toast just barely starting to brown.

And me. In all of my smelliness.

It’ll go like this: Eew, something smells, Mommy. I think it’s YOU.

She smells my breath while snapping her into her car seat; the sweat on my hands while helping her up the jungle gym; my oily hair while snuggling with a book.

Mommy, you smell eew.

Nobody likes to be told that they stink. And that’s something I’ve been trying to teach Sasha. But every time I tell her this, I get these vivid memories of telling my own mother that she stank. I can remember climbing into bed with her in the morning, and her breath smelling horridly strong, her nightgown smelling musty. And I can hear my 4-year-old self telling her so. But if you asked me what my mom smelled like now, I’d have no idea. Pretty good? I’d tell you.

I think what I’m realizing is, when we’re young children, if we’re lucky, we spend so much time up against our mothers that we can’t help but be intimately familiar with their odors. Isn’t that how newborns know their moms first? Before they can see clearly, or touch things intentionally—it’s all smell, right?

Last week, during a fit of drowsiness and cabin fever, I invited Sasha to snuggle in bed with me while she watched TV and I snuck in a doze. She startled me awake with a Mommy, you smell eew!

Then stop smelling me, I said.

She lifted the covers a bit. No, wait, she said. I think it’s something else.

Oh, I smelled it too this time! Did you fart? I asked her.

Yes, she said, matter-of-factly. Awhile ago.

Well, I told her, maybe a little too smugly, farts can get trapped in the bed. YOU’RE the one who smells eew!

The thing is, I’ve been smelling her, too, all these years. Just as vividly as I can conjure my mom’s morning breath, I can conjure the smell of Sasha’s spit-up. Her breast-milk poops; her solid-food poops. Those smells—they’re still trapped somewhere in my sense memory. But they’re slipping away from me. Just like the powdery smell of her hairy baby head.

And I know there will come a time—much sooner than I can possibly imagine—when I long for the days when we smelled eew to each other.

Does anyone else remember telling their mom that they smelled?