What do you smell like?
Do you have an odor?
Not the cologne or shampoo you use, or even your fabric softening dryer sheets.
But, rather, what do others breathe in as your smell wafts by?
A smell can tell you a lot about a person. What they’ve been doing, where they’ve been.
A smell can recall a memory greater than most senses, I believe. First boyfriend’s cologne? I’m frozen. Momma’s cooking? I’m heart-warmed. Hospital soap used in the NICU? I’m grief-stricken.
Smells can affect us, and those around us, to an emotional level.
And I smell like burned beets.
I was making beet chips with dinner last night.
(My kids like weird food. Kale chips, beet chips, sweet potato chips.. they request them. My kids are weird. But I’m weird and I eat weird food, too and I ate weird food when I was pregnant with them, so that probably has something to do with it, so I’m told.)
They were roasting away and all was under control, which should have been my first clue that I was on a precipice. Few things are ever under control at that untethered, chaotic time in late afternoon, before dinner, waiting for the man-tetherer called Daddy and Hubby to save us all. Pride comes before the fall as calm comes before the storm.
I hear it from afar. The arguing of my girl and boy. The verbal scraping, the hearts angry behind the tired tempers. I ran to intervene. I used my words to band-aid their wounds, to little relief. Too little relief. It was their 35th argument of the day. My words were like a lemon-sour band-aid.
I stormed back to my oven. To the smell. What was almost perfect, with a few poorly spent minutes more, had burned. The beets were black and smelly. I gasped,and removed them; the smoke filling my senses, my pores and my hair follicles, all eager to accept failure.
Hubby enters, Men have perfect timing. Even those who always run late.
“I am leaving!” I screamed. And storming away again, I barreled toward the front door, my escape.
(After turning off the oven, the burners, and making sure no plastic utensils were near any heat source. I have become my mother.)
I sat among my rose bushes, feeling like a thorn. I smelled terrible, I had yelled sorely at my children, I had burned dinner and was sure these were all litmus tests for each and every area of my life where I had been letting myself down lately.
I ran my fingers through my hair. I am losing some of it. A large amount of it, actually. I would like to blame it on my recent, and yet unfinished, kitchen remodel, and while those of you who have endured a kitchen remodel are nodding your heads, I am sure there is a deeper cause…
We took a brief interlude this weekend to run away from our kitchen chaos to spend two days in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. It is beautiful, cooler than El Paso, and we could pretend to have a summer and forget about our remodeling stress for a bit. With the hubby returning to work this week, it became a last-minute priority.
While hiking, my youngest heard a dog barking and pointed. “Woof, woof!” He imitated. Yes, I said. That’s what dogs say.
I was pleased that he had stopped calling dogs, ‘Aslan’, our chocolate lab’s name. Every dog used to be Aslan, but now he knows that other dogs have a different name. “Woof, woof.” He repeated. I realized he was not imitating the sound of the animal, but was naming the dog, based on his sound. “Momma,” he pointed to me. “Ma-day-do,” he pointed to himself. “Woofwoof,” to the dog in the distance.
What is my name, if I am called by the sound that I make?
“Furrowed-brow expectation-measurer who yells-a-lot” in Native American terms?
I did a terrible thing and asked my husband what I would be called.
(Wives, don’t be like me. Husbands, pray for my poor man.)
“I think you’d be called, ‘singer’. You sing an awful lot!”
(He didn’t say I sing awfully, a lot, mind you.)
I sighed. That was really kind of him. He’s very kind. And, forgiving.
“I don’t know about that,” I couldn’t resist smiling when I caught his eye.
Needless to say, I have been feeling un-beautiful lately. Not ugly, for one person’s trash is another’s treasure and even the ugly things can be found beautiful in the right light.
No. I have been feeling un. beautiful. My heart, my words, my insides and outsides. Un. beautiful.
So I have been doing what I do when I feel yucky. I work out more.
After my exercise this afternoon, I looked in the mirror.
Don’t be like me.
I have a magnifying mirror my mom gave me to “only use while necessarily grooming your eyebrows. Understand? For nothing else!” She admonished.
I’m rebellious. I look in it several times a day to intentionally self- flagellate. Don’t tell my mom.
I looked in it, at my magnified, enormous pores and I cracked. I couldn’t hold up the weight of the burden of being angry with myself anymore. I dropped the thousands of pounds of disappointment, unforgiveness and secret self-hatred and watched them crumble as I heard the words in my head:
“These pores are large because every inch of me longs to take in life to the fullest. I need large receptacles.
My mouth is so big because I like to smile, love to laugh and use big words that wouldn’t come out of a vessel any smaller.
My arm muscles are un-feminine in size to always remind me that I used to carry 90-pound bags of cement while building houses in Mexico.
My back is unnaturally curved and my bum sticks out. I am therefore, always ready to carry another’s burden.
My feet are ballet-ugly and a bit larger than they were four babies ago. I will never forget my years of grace in toe-shoes, nor the irreversible impact my children have on my journey, how I will forever walk differently.”
Every scar on my body is a mark not left there to remind me of my wounds, but to remind me that I have been healed.
I am not wounded.
I was wounded and now, I am healed.
If my skin can do it, so can my heart.
I walked back inside, last night, after my moments of feeling like a thorn rather than a rose and served my family our dinner. The children were thrilled to find some beets unscathed. They chuckled in giddy anticipation, for beets are special. They were used by many ancient “furrowed-brow” native mothers to dye clothing, animal hides, lips, and cheeks, too. Beets will coat your insides and leave everything that comes out of you a different color for a few days afterwards. !!
My boy started talking about what his poo might look like in the morning.
My daughter started coloring her lips and pretending to be on the cover of Vogue.
My hubby laughed with his boyish grin as he entertained the idea of extra-golden pee due to the golden beets I had roasted, too.
A dinner that began with burning, smelly beets, a reminder of my failings, ended with beet-smiles, laughter and a twelve-hour learning curve that I desperately needed.
(A funny and transparent confession is that the beets looked so beautiful on the cookie sheet before I put them in the oven, that I wanted to Instagram them and show the world the organic loveliness I was making. Remember that pride thing I mentioned? How it comes before a fall? Well, for me, it burned to smithereens, technically.)
My son asked to use my phone today. He wanted to take a picture of me. A portrait, he said. He said he wants to remember me, because he thinks I am beautiful and he thinks I smell good, like hugging-Mother.
How do we get these moments from children? These “out of the mouths of babes” moments, that are really divine messages?
It’s a terrible angle, I look twice my size, my ugly foot can be seen, but thank goodness you can’t see my balding!
However, you can see in my eyes and in my smile that I love my son. And he could see it, too.
And, I smelled good, better than last night, at least.
No more burning beet smell. I think. I hope?
If the smell of burning beets was where I have been and what I had been doing, I pray the odor would just be a bad memory.