SHE SMELLED LIKE

  1. Baby Oil
    She used Johnson & Johnson baby oil daily. Sometimes in the shower, just before she turned off the water, she would put it on herself and then on me and I would become fascinated by the way the oil would make the water bead in little drops across our tan skin. And then to preserve the smell she would delicately pat me down with a towel after the shower. Her skin was smooth like a baby, and I was just a baby.
  2. Chloé
    This perfume smelled like what I thought a Lady, capital L, smelled like. Like the early 90s and shoulder pads in her blazers and the strapless pink dress with large flowers on it that she wore with matching pale pink pumps to a dinner event with my dad one time and while she often wore the perfume she never wore make-up or fancy dresses and she looked like a movie star and I didn't want her to go out with my dad but to stay home and show off the dress for me and me alone.
  3. Bain de Soleil
    It was an orange gelee, or that's what the package said, but it smelled like summertime and Scarborough Beach and swim lessons at the the pool at the Portland Country Club. She wore SPF 4 because they didn't make higher SPFs and why would anyone wear a stronger sunscreen anyway, at least then, when we were all still blissfully living our lives unaware of eventual, inevitable realities.
  4. Vitabath
    It was green and the smell was somewhere between citrus and soap and she bought the big surplus-sized bottles and I had to use her shower if I wanted to use the Vitabath as my body wash and smell like her, which I almost always did. It made the bubbles green and I watched them collect at the drain until eventually the water washed it all away. 
  5. Arizona Sun
    In sixth grade we went to Arizona just me and her. We got massages and swam in the pool and I wanted a tummy tan, so she bought me my first bikini at Dillard's. She discovered these bottles of Arizona Sun products in the gift store of the Camelback Inn and bought so much it seemed to last forever, but maybe because she only used the lotion sparingly, and when she did the smell brought back the red rocks and the cacti and the lizards and her obsession with Kokopelli and how sunny everything was.
  6. Gardenia
    Her last smell. Caswell Massey Gardenia hand lotion. Sometimes now if I catch the scent my heart aches so much I cannot breathe. When she was ill her hands were extra dry so she used it all throughout the day. We had a huge bottle in the living room near her daybed and when she was too sick to put it on herself I did it for her, holding onto her hands for as long as I could, memorizing the softness of her fingers, the safety promised in each wrinkle, the love she held in each fingertip.
  7. Liz Claiborne
    Her everyday perfume but sometimes I wonder if she didn't wear it everyday and what I remember her smelling like was just her and not this. Like home. The smell lingered on our sofas and blankets and in her turtlenecks and polo shirts and when I find an old box of her clothing I've somehow forgotten I'll discover a sweater that smells so distinctly of her I will briefly wonder if she is, somehow, there and real. This is what she smells like in my dreams and in my memories, when I close my eyes.
  8. Sunlight
    Because she was the sun around which my universe orbited. I am lucky to have had a mother whose love shined so bright that I am reminded of it every day, even after she's left this world for another, in every passing moment, in every ray of light. Her various scents still linger and now weave their way through the twists and turns of my own life, reminding me she is in some way still here and will always be here, for as long as I am, she is me.