Monday, December 2, 2013

The Power of Smell

The sweet fragrance of pink jasmine. It carries me back to my vaulting years. My coach had pink jasmine growing all over the front of the barn. When I smell pink jasmine, I can close my eyes and I'm instantly transported back to that time and place.

Mothballs in wool. I'm hugging my grandpa again. Most people hate the smell of mothballs. Not me!

Constant Comment tea. It's Saturday morning and my dad is making breakfast. He and I both love Constant Comment tea. If I close my eyes and inhale the sweetness of the tea, my Daddy might just appear beside me with our two special tea mugs.

Wood smoke in warm air. It's a winter morning and I am stretched out in from of the wood burning stove in the living room of my childhood home, doing my schoolwork.

Hospital. They all smell the same. It doesn't make me feel panicky, but it does flood me with a sense of caution. I spent many, many months in hospital rooms. First with my grandpa after his heart surgery and stroke. Then with my mom as she battled cancer. I still get a check in my spirit when I smell hospital.

There are many fragrances that have the power to turn my emotions upside-down and inside-out. Lots of them are associated with wonderful memories. Many are associated with pain. I have found this to be especially true with my adopted girls.

Cigarette smoke lingering on a person is a smell trigger for Piper. Her walls instantly go up and her body language gets defensive. It reminds her of bio mom, and for Piper, it is not a good thing.

Damp concrete with a touch of mildew is a smell trigger for Bubbles. "Is there a prison around here? It smells like when we had to go visit my first dad in prison. Nasty smell." Again, not a good thing.

Brewing Luzianne tea on the stove for sweet tea is a smell trigger for Bubbles. Her bio grandma used to make sweet tea. Grandma's house was a safe haven of love for Bubbles. It's a good memory.

A whiff of marijuana smoke is a smell trigger for Sunny. "I smell happy juice!" Not because it makes her happy, but because that's what her bio parents called it. I don't know what kind of memory it brings up for Sunny, because she had just turned 3 when she was removed from her bio parents. But it brings up enough of a memory for her to comment on. She doesn't have any reaction, negative or otherwise.

When we first got our girls, we noticed that they had a lot of negative smell triggers. We wanted to make sure to create positive smell associations for them, so we have been very intentional over the last 18 months in our use of smells. We're seeing results.

Last year was the girls' first Christmas with us, and their second Christmas away from their bio family. We knew that their bio family didn't do much in the way of holiday celebrations, so we tried to create positive smell associations for them. We left our artificial tree in the attic and bought the most fragrant tree we could find. When we went to the tree lot again this weekend, Bubbles threw back her head, inhaled deeply and proclaimed, "Now THAT smells just like last year! I love the smell of Christmas!"

When we first started corresponding with the girls while they were still in foster care, I would spray every letter I sent them with my body spray--L0ve $pell from Victor*a's $ecret. Whenever I use that spray now, Sunny and Piper will sniff me all over like a curious puppy saying, "It's the Mommy Smell!"

I burn cinnamon candles in my house year-round because it is my favorite scent, and always has been. I've burned cinnamon candles in my house year-round for the last 8 years. Whenever any of my kids smells cinnamon, they'll comment that it "smells like home."

Piper has no sleep problems at night as long as she has one of Daddy's shirts to sleep with...a shirt that has been sprayed with Daddy's cologne.

I make hashbrown casserole for every holiday, and as requested by Snapper and Bubbles for their birthdays. I also make it every year to eat for dinner after we decorate our Christmas tree. Last night Bubbles came in from outside and smelled the casserole cooking. She shouted, "YUM YUM! It smells like a special occasion in here!!!"

Good smells create security for a child. I was reminded of the importance of this over the weekend. I need to continue to be intentional about creating positive smell associations for my kiddos, especially the ones who come from hard places. One more powerful, positive smell=a safer, more secure kiddo.

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