You Smell Like Mom

Grant was my clingy baby. He needed me to hold him almost every moment of his life until he was about eighteen months old. His attachment to me progressed to the point that I had to buy a special baby carrier to wear him on my back just so I could get the dishes done.

The neediness thankfully dwindled little by little until, when he was just a little over three years old, I spent a month on bed rest while pregnant with Jonah. My doctor had me under such strict guidelines I had to lay on my left side all day long unless I had to eat or use the bathroom. I wasn’t even allowed to sit with the family during mealtimes, I wasn’t allowed to walk from the couch to the table.

As you might imagine, taking care of three children who were, at the time, aged 3, 4 1/2 and 6, was not possible under these rules. We were blessed to have family and friends take shifts at the house while Zachary was at work, and they would make meals and play with the kids since I could not.

During those first days of my bed rest, Grant would curl up behind my knees with his blankie and watch TV with me. He soon realized, however, that I wasn’t going to move from my spot and if he wanted entertainment he’d have to venture away from his mama. He joined his brother and sister in playing with our fantastic helpers. He stopped needing me close.

Those four weeks of bed rest helped pry him away, which was wonderful for his independence, but once I was released from bed rest I kind of missed my little shadow. My previously snuggly boy stopped snuggling.

He’s six now and able to entertain himself for hours. As I type this he’s been in his room for thirty minutes, quietly assembling and disassembling Lego creations. But he’s still free with his hugs. He’ll approach me with a shy smile, his upper teeth biting his lip and he’ll fold into the space between my arm and my body, and then he… sniffs.

Yes, about a year or more ago, I realized that Grant smells me when we hug. He puts his face to my shirt and tries to be discreet but it’s now clear to me what he’s doing.

At first I thought, “Do I stink?” But then this week I was going through old clothes to sell or donate and came across a pair of jeans I took from my mom’s closet after she died. The day my sister and I went through her belongings we laughed at some of the outdated clothes she had kept for years, with the tags still on, and wondered aloud about the reasons she had bought certain skirts or dresses, then never worn them, yet never discarded them, either. We went through dozens of solid-colored t-shirts and I took purses to let my kids play. Even though they weren’t quite my size or my style I gathered shirts and pajamas and a fall coat and brought them home with me.

Beyond just holding these things our mother owned and reminiscing about them (“The dress she wore to my wedding!” or “This shirt is TOTALLY Mom.”) I remember thinking the clothes still smelled like her. I could close my eyes and pretend she was still in the house with us, calmly crocheting while she sat on the couch and watched daytime TV. I remember thinking back to when I was a child like Grant, going into my parents’ bedroom in the morning and crawling into bed with them and thinking their room smelled like Mom and Dad. A comforting, familiar scent.

My mom has been gone for five and a half years. Just as I wish I could hear her voice again, I also wish I could feel her arms around me, hugging me. I would put my face into her shoulder and she’d smell like love.

This post was written to participate in The Ordinary Extraordinary’s weekly Just Write and 5 for 5 at Momalom.



  1. “I would put my face into her shoulder and she’d smell like love.” Oh my heart.

    Just beautiful! And the memories that a scent evokes can be so powerful.

  2. You just made me think of my dad.. I feel the same way.He died 20 years ago, but I still have a favourite plaid flannel shirt of his that I keep in my drawer. It doesnt smell like him, but I like coming across it occasionally.

  3. Such a beautiful story about your memories of your mom. I have such a keen sense of smell – I know exactly what you mean about her clothes still smelling like her, like love. Sometimes I go to visit my Grandma and stay at my parent’s summer house, and I borrow a sweatshirt or sweater from my mom’s closet, I can always smell some of her perfume on it. Makes me smile.

  4. this brings tears to my eyes. my mom has been gone 11 years and my dad, my hero has been gone four years. i have my dad’s favorite suit, which still smells just like him. my mother’s scarf, and other items. it is still fresh in my mind yet today, and the void is still huge. a word, or movie or house or something connected to them can still bring the smell of them to me anywhere in my life. i miss them so bad

  5. I love how sense of smell is so strongly connected to memories like that. Beautifully written 🙂

  6. I love that he smells you. I really love that he leans in and smells you. Aroma brings a different kind of connection to life around us. It makes us more present. And more appreciative, I think. This post is so poignant.

  7. That last line, oh my heart, is beautiful.

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