Preserving the moment in … smells?


Charlie and Kip posing for me on the first day of school this year. This day seems like it was yesterday, and this place is forever in my heart.

Tomorrow is Charlie’s last day of preschool ever and I’m wondering how badly I might want to smell that place a year from now.

In his backpack tonight, I found the zip lock of spare clothes we sent with him back in August. For nine months, his way-too-small-now superhero underpants and blue shorts have steeped in the tempera-crayon-playdough-wood-water-glue fragrance of his school. I opened the bag and inhaled the preschooly perfume embedded in his clothes. I quickly zipped it closed and held it to my heart. I think I need to save this, I thought.

It’s not a traditional way of preserving childhood milestones, but a whiff off an olfactory scrapbook would give me a Technicolor trip down memory lane a year from now. And I might want that. Which of our five senses has more power to evoke vivid memories than that of smell?

When Brian and I first met, and we lived 1,500 miles apart, I mailed him one of my tank tops. I didn’t know it until later, but he sealed it in a zip lock bag and, whenever he felt restless from the distance between us, he opened it to catch my scent. The bag is still in tact and in his sock drawer, long forgotten (by him), but I know it’s there, and I like that. It reminds me of a mystical time.


This was us a million years ago, madly in love, fresh out of the sea and on our way to eat the fish Brian had just speared. I like that he’s held onto my plastic-bag-encased tank top from about the time this pic was taken.

So what if I held onto my big kid’s vacuum-sealed underpants so as to sniff them later as a reminder of the place that started his school journey and shifted our world.

This is the place that said, “We’d love to take him. We have a lot of kids like him,” when he was three and still in diapers, having meltdowns that lasted for what seemed like hours and newly diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. Not much later, they’d say, “He’s a complete doll. We love Charlie. He is such a wonderful kid.” We’d barely ever heard that from anyone before. You can imagine what unconditional acceptance, appreciation and understanding of a little kid with special needs does to his tired-out, frazzled-nerves, perma-worried mother.

It’s life changing. For him, for me, for our family. This is the place full of people who, whether they realize it or not, empowered me to make the best choices imaginable to support my son and assist him in his school, home, social and inner life.

And now, after two years in the inclusion program of this beautiful little preschool, where teachers, aides and his friends have lovingly tended him, and every child, like a garden, he’s embarking on kindergarten. All day and, per endorsements from a few experts, with no special needs considerations, no Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), no inclusion aide, no extra anything. I can’t even believe it, but he’s ready for it. He’s a five-year-old boy venturing out into the world of elementary school with wings given to him by a place I love so hard I’m not ashamed to admit I want to smell it.

I’m keeping that plastic bag of spare underwear, and so what? It’s not just the scent of my kids’ beloved preschool; it’s a reminder of sun and hope, of light and faith and, ultimately, of the buoyancy you feel watching someone you love come into his own.


Some may see a mess, but I see fine-motor triumph. Judging from his propensities now, the kid will have a proper sleeve of tats as soon as he turns 18, but instead of the loopy scribbles of old, he’s taken to drawing actual pictures on his forearms. Here, portraits of Mommy and Daddy. Rock on with your kindergartener self, sweet baby.

11 thoughts on “Preserving the moment in … smells?

  1. I’m so happy to read this. Thanks for sharing!

  2. You hit the nail on the head. Your writing is so inspiring.

  3. Such a beautiful way to recognize the progress your beautiful boy has made.

  4. The love shines through your words. I love to read what you write!!! You are an amazing Mom and Wife..Thanks

  5. What an unbelievable post. As the father of a little boy and soon to be daughter, nothing terrifies and excites me more than watching them grow, and how wonderfully you put that ever-present feeling.

    I have only subscribed to one blogger, and it is you. I have really enjoyed reading your words.


    • Wow, thank you so very much for this amazingly kind compliment. I’m so touched. And I so appreciate you reading and identifying with what I write. Tremendous blessings to you and your whole family as you await the arrival of your daughter!

  6. I feel days ahead coming on….thinking over and over about your expressions of love above, …how insightful you are….wish I could live my life over and follow in your footsteps…you are a constant wonder.

    • Oh my goodness, Doris, I don’t think I’ve ever received such a deeply touching comment. You, one of the most graceful women I’ve ever known in any phase of my life, the wise one, the strong hearted, the quick-witted, the steadfast, the worldly, the always stunning, the faithful, the twinkly-eyed, ever radiant figurehead from my childhood. I can say wholeheartedly that if my life resembles yours in any tiny way when I’m in your stage of life, I will know I’ve lived very well. I’m speechless. Thank you. I love and miss you and am so grateful for your place in my life from a very young age. Lucky, lucky me.

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