The Smell of Saliva

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Those of you who follow me on Instagram (smallyspice) know that I did nothing to this photo. She occasionally glows. I'm serious. And I have other photos to prove it. 

I have a problem. I can't stop kissing my baby girl. My Zoë June. I just pinch and squeeze and slobber all over her all day long. And when I open her bedroom door in the morning to greet her and she gives me a kiss on the lips...fagetaboutit. I'm wrapped entirely around her dainty little finger.

Her lips, her eyes, her hair, her face, her tiny little body. She is such a joy.

Each time I kiss her and breathe in her smell, my senses are violently transported backward. Backward to a time that feels like a lifetime ago. The time I was curled up in a hospital bed next to the body of my Lucy Bell. I'd stroke her hair and run my finger down the outline of her face. Her nose, her chin, her jaw, her lips. And I'd kiss her. Again and again and again.

Though I could hardly breathe while doing so, I couldn't stop--knowing I had mere hours with her before I'd say goodbye to her forever. At least it feels like forever. I know I'll be with her again. But if a single day can feel like it's never going to end, imagine a lifetime.

But my point is this: I remember searching for a smell after Lucy died. I wanted a smell that held me close to her. It was frustrating because there were very few things that smelled like "her". What do babies and little girls smell like? Dirty diapers? Baby powder? (Too generic) Lotion? For some reason I was always using different laundry detergent so there was nothing I could wash my clothing (or hers) in that would connect me with her. I had her blankets and toys and Elmo dolls, but even they didn't have a strong enough smell to them. If I couldn't have my Lucy could I at least have her smell? Please?

They used a lot of medical tape on Lucy while she lay unconscious in her hospital bed. So many tubes. Tubes for breathing and body temperature and fluids. The first time I smelled medical tape after she died my senses and emotions went haywire, scrambling to figure out where I had smelled it before and why it was producing such an emotional reaction. Medical tape will always be a horribly sacred smell to me. But I knew there was another smell associated with the medical tape. It was part of a duo and one party was not showing up. I wanted to find it and feel close to my Lucy but I couldn't.

Until now. I finally figured it out. As I kiss the cheeks and the neck and the head of my Zoë June, I am likewise transported back to the hospital bed. But this time I don't smell the tainted and horrible smell of medical tape that means someone is on life support...being held to earth by sticky tape. I smell saliva. My saliva on my daughter's cheek. My saliva on my daughters cheeks.

That's the smell of my Lucy. The smell of layers upon layers of kisses from her mom and daddy. In life and in death. It is the smell of combined flesh. Skin on skin. Wet tears, wet lips, and love.

So if you ever hug a child, maybe your niece or your student, or your child's friend--and you smell their cheeks and it smells like saliva, just know that they are well loved. And make sure you send your children out into the world each day smelling of kisses. It is the most heavenly smell in the world to me.


  1. Gosh I love this post. Gave me warm fuzzies, goosebumps, the whole shebang. You are amazing. The end.

  2. You know how sometimes you read something and it stays with you years, decades later? That's this post. It's going to stay with me. Thank you for this beauty.

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  4. Awwww. heart-wrenching and beautiful. xoxo

  5. Thank you for this wonderful reminder.. It just reminds me that they (my kids) will not stay little forever.. I am going to take in their sweetness even more today and YES give them even more kisses than I already do :) thanks Molly, I sure love all your posts so much.

  6. That's totally how new carpet smells are for me. The week of my dads funeral, the funeral home got new carpet- and so every time I smell that smell it transports me to the last moments I saw my dads face. Smells are powerful memory makers.

  7. Beautiful zoe... and her glow. Would love to see the other pictures you talk about!

  8. I have searched for my little boys sweet smell too. Thank you for writing this post. It is beautiful.

  9. wow this post is amazing! You are right on, and said it so beautifully thank you for that!


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