Sometimes Bad Smells Happen to Good People

Dec 10 2012

It was just … persistent, you know? Pervasive but subtle. Like a ghost intent on the haunting. A fleeting whiff here. A vanishing fragrance there. But still inescapably everywhere, tapping me on the shoulder and then giggling at me when I spun around to find nothing.

Oh, yes. I think you know. If you’ve ever had a cat box or an angry dog or a diaper pail or a toddler with his own hose, you know that musty, used pee smell. You know.

It came to my house again the other night because it likes to mock me.

It’s not hard to guess the culprit these days. The dog was acting out his abandonment issues again. He just hates to be left alone, and, well, at our house he so rarely is alone, what with all the chaos and clamor and clutter and kids. It’s bewildering, I’m sure, to trade it all for sudden silence. And so he pees. Not every time we leave, you understand. Just rarely enough that we forget to shut our bedroom door and on occasion come home to a water feature in the middle of our bed. It’s delightful.

So I knew right away when I smelled it at bedtime exactly what it was, and, after my dramatic sigh of frustration, I started sniffing.

I smelled our sheets like a bloodhound in a grid pattern. And then I repeated the procedure with our comforter and our floor. I spent so much time with my nose to the ground that my knees were red when I was done. I smelled it; I just couldn’t locate it.

So I smelled every child because they’re not always that discriminating about clean versus dirty piles of clothes. I gathered handfuls of towels and mountains of stuffed animals. I even worked my way through the dirty clothes piles, and my nose did not thank me for my diligence.

No luck, though. None. I could not find the source no matter what I did.

Until my sweet six-year-old, Cael, hugged me with his nose buried in my belly, looked up at me with wise, gentle eyes, and whispered, “Mama? I think it’s you.”

Now, I knew it wasn’t me, friends. First, I’d just showered. Second, I was wearing a nightgown I pulled from the clean laundry. And third, there was no way I’d walk around wearing dog pee without knowing it. No way. My life is crazy busy, but not that crazy busy. It’s OK that Cael said it, though. It was a good teachable moment to discuss standards of cleanliness with my son. To talk about why clean clothes are important from both a hygiene and social perspective.

I sank down to the ground and gathered my nightgown to our noses — Cael’s and mine — so we could smell the fabric together and begin our cleanliness lessons.

Which is when I caught the strongest whiff yet and realized it was me. It was meHe was right, and the smell was coming from me. 

I don’t know what happened, folks. I just can’t fully accept any of the possible scenarios, because either I put a nightgown laced with dog urine over my head and didn’t notice… or the dog stealth-peed on me when I wasn’t looking. Either way, I now have to come to terms with the fact that I am the woman who can’t tell that the urine smell is coming from herself. 

In conclusion, if you need to uninvite me to your holiday party, I understand.

………