Friday, January 07, 2011

They say you need your tongue to be able to smell.

My son was napping upstairs one afternoon while Matthew and I made cookies for him to take to work. His door was shut; so was the stairway door. I grated an orange peel, maybe about a teaspoon's worth, and suddenly we heard little feet racing down the stairs. He threw the door open, eyes lit up. "I smelled an orange!" he said.
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And then yesterday, he was playing in the living room. I was coming and going, five minutes into making lunch. The water had boiled and I added the rice. I was reading him a book and he looked at me, cocked his head to the side as though smelling like a dog listens, and announced "I smell that there is rice and it just started to cook!"
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All of which makes me suddenly very aware of what my house smells like. I remember going to a Bangladeshi friend's house one day in high school and being overwhelmed by the scent of food in her house. No one was cooking, but it was everywhere. In retrospect, I don't know what I expected. She smelled like food; her skin, when she'd walk by; her hair, when she adjusted her hijab. Her clothes, her notebooks. You breathed in cumin and culantro.
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There was a girl in college who had the most fantastic smelling hair. Lilac and strawberries. I used to rush to stand behind her in line at the cafeteria because it was always the dead of winter, and she smelled like the month of July.
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I smell like cheap detergent. My house smells like green peppers and olive oil. My husband smells like aftershave, the one that comes in the green bottle.
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I remember reading an essay by a middle-eastern immigrant, talking about the startingly sanitary smell of American houses. Lemon cleanser everywhere: dish soap, sprays, air-fresheners. A Saudi friend once told me that Americans are very messy. I said no, you just think that because you only ever come to my house. She laughed and said maybe.
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I wonder why God likes the smell of insence so much. It makes me think of record stores with posters of The Grateful Dead in the window. I wonder why the fact that he likes incense is so intuitive that Jews and Buddhists and Muslims and Christians all agree about it. Surely there's got to be a joke in there somewhere.
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It says in Revelations that prayer is like incense to God. I wonder how often my house smells good to him. I wonder about my other words too: how often I complain; if I'm harsh or sour or sarcastic. I am sometimes, I know that. But how much? Would I be surprised to hear it played as a recording?
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I suppose that most of the track would be me reading The Jungle Book. Over and over and over, until I finally put in Felix el Gato. It would be Flaco asking me to talk like Loli's stuffed cat Francine; me saying oui for a while and then practicing my Arabic in a Francine voice. Which is very hard to do with a French accent. I wish I had told him she was from Syria.
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I wonder how many times a day I laugh, how many times I say I love you, how many times I say not now.
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I could spend a lifetime taming my tongue.
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I love the untamed beasts written about in Job; I like how God describes the leviathon and then says that you can't put it on a string and take it home for your girls. My tongue, it is a bit wild. But I want to put it on a string. I want its words to be a present I bring home for my girl, for my boys.
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A new year, a new reason for resolve.

2 comments:

You can call me B.... said...

love it, as always... and i agree. me too.

Anonymous said...

It is such a scary thought to realize that every thought and word is recorded. Years ago we thought this maybe couldn't be true, I mean, how could it even be possible, but now computers even with their limited power retaining so much...why it's quite daunting to think about what God's going to do with all those "hard drives". I do try smiling more these days! And I on purpose tried to dream glorious thoughts!!!

Saleh Sin Barba