Happy New Year…Almost

I am fed up with this infernal sweating. This stickiness is unbearable; it makes me logey. My jeans are crying to be worn with boots and a light sweater. I miss my jackets; I’m tired of shaving my legs every day.  My armpits are raw from having to use battery acid-strength anti-perspirant/deodorant. It’s too damn hot to do anything fun. And the mosquitoes won’t die.  If I spend just 20 minutes outside, my legs are red and welted like a hooker who works the paths of Patterson Park, and my skin is slick and gooey, covered in a sheen of humid air.


Summer sucks. Especially summer in its death throes – the sweltering, confused month of September. By now, I need to be cool vis-a-vis natural air. My skin is weathered and tight from the painfully drying effects of too much time spent in air conditioning and the three or four daily showers required to sluice the sweat and gnats off me. I don’t mind that my flowers are dying. I don’t care that I’ll soon be raking leaves. I’m damn thrilled to watch my lawn turn dormant brown. At this point, I won’t even miss tomatoes – I’ve had enough tomatoes. I want some butternut squash.  And clementines, sweet, tangy nuggets of sunshine that don’t make me sweat.


If I have to endure the shrill trilling of another damn cicada, I’m going to get a bb gun and start shooting at the trees, hoping to hit the noisy offender. If any ricocheting bb’s happen to take out a few crickets, I’ll consider it a bonus. Bring me the sweetly eerie caw of the crow. She is my sound of Autumn. She sings to the death of the trees and the months of cool, crisp nights that are ideal for deep sleep. She reminds me to fluff the down comforters and pull out the thick socks from the boxes under the beds.


And oh, good grief can I please stop drinking my body weight in water to avoid dehydration on the 40-foot walk to my car? I’d like a nice cup of tea. Something I can wrap my hands around and sip delicately, savoring the herbal flavors and slightly burning mouthfeel.  I miss the steamy whistle of my tea kettle.


Perhaps what makes these early days of September so utterly loathsome is that they begin a deeply transitionary month – the long-anticipated summer ends, its gild having become tarnished way back in July. The anxiety-filled academic year begins, awash with possibility, structure, and stresses that both wear me down and delightfully stimulate me. Also, beautiful autumn finally rolls in.  This truly is my new start. January will come and go with a toss of confetti and a sip of sparkling wine. But late-September is when the real year begins. Everything is new…schedule, students, classrooms… by the month’s mid-point my routine is established. I then work myself raw until mid-December, break for a while, start over in February, and end for the year in mid-May with vacations on the horizon.


The craving for stability and routine brings out the curmudgeonly old lady in me.


It’s too damn hot.


The bugs are too damn loud.


My damn lawn won’t die.


If I eat another damn tomato, I’m gonna look like a tomato.


Come sweet, Autumn. Come to me like a lover.

And Breathe.

My puppy smells like corn chips. I inhale her sweet little scent just like I inhale the lavender scent of the sheets at my mom’s house – deeply and with relish.  When Ethan sweats, he smells like vinegar. It’s a sharp, acrid scent that does not suit him at all.  He usually smells like soccer fields and forests. Laura smells like my perfume. When I get ready for the day, she comes in to watch me. She asks for either sparkly eyes or pink cheeks and for a spritz of whatever perfume I am wearing that day. My cats sometimes smell like their litter boxes. I send them away to clean themselves up when they track that scent near me. Then I go clean their litter boxes.

Like so many people, I have a strong connection to scents.  I smell new tires whenever I go to a dentist’s office because the first time I got gassed before having a tooth pulled, the mask smelled like new tires. It made me sick. 24 years later, it still does. When my kids are congested, I can smell the mucous on their breath. It smells like sick – green and dank.  I can still smell the Polo cologne of my high school boyfriend.  Most likely because a bottle of his cologne shattered in my backpack after he haphazardly lobbed it next to his backpack, but it hit the wall instead. I held it at arm’s length and carried it to my locker where I stashed it before running down the hall to homeroom. The entire hallway of our high school smelled like Polo for a couple of weeks. Some things stick with you.

My ex-mother-in-law was an empty woman. She had so many cavities of sadness within her, so she filled her home with trinkets, baubles, sticks, bowls, anything antique. No tchotchkes, though. She was never quite sure what a tchotchke was, nor did she care to learn about them. When she couldn’t find any more nooks and corners inside her home to fill, she filled the air with scent – apples and cinnamon. There was potpourri, candles, cinnamon sticks, dried apples, small “cinnamon brooms,” faux apple pies that smelled “like the real thing!” as she would proudly exclaim. It was sickly sweet in there. I could smell the pie-filling inside of the 140-year old Victorian house from the front porch.  And just like the stuff carefully placed in the crevices and on shelves, the scent was an apt distraction.

Before my parents sold the home where I lived as a child, the front and the upstairs hallways smelled like sweet peaches.  Potpourri. Mom liked dabbles of scent here and there. But the peach potpourri stands out the most. Now that they live at the beach, the house smells salty, briny, and a little like the many pine trees in the yard. It’s a natural scent that I savor when I am there. Mom has gotten away from the potpourri. Sometimes when she cooks fish, she’ll light a delicately scented lemon candle to cleanse the air. The heaviest scents are in the bathroom. In the past couple of years, since receiving a bottle as a wedding favor, mom has begun buying Bath and Body Works liquid hand soaps. Everybody knows when you washed your hands, and, perhaps most importantly, when you didn’t, once you enter a room after leaving the bathroom. The dense scent of the soap lingers like little, puffy clouds around your hands. When I first told her about, and when she later visited, my ex-mother-in-law’s house, mom began consciously avoiding cinnamon and apple scents.

My own house smells like puppy pee. Not everywhere. And not all the time. And maybe I’m the only one who can smell it (or so I’ve been accused) because of the many puddles of pee I’ve cleaned since puppy Penny Lane arrived. My dear friend, Vector,* gave me two nature-inspired scented candles. One is “Sun-Kissed Leaves” and the other is “Cool Serenity (Relaxing Moments).” He was buying candles for his house, thought of me, and bought extra. Of course, this furthered my conviction that my house smells like puppy pee. He insists it doesn’t. I always forget to light the candles. He lights them when he is here.

I splurged on a rather expensive reed diffuser for my writing desk this summer.  My favorite home scent is fresh fig. I have a candle (that I always forget to light), oils (that I forget to put in the diffuser or forget to light the tea light to warm the oil and release the scent) and a spray (that I can’t find) in varieties of fig scents. Given my history, and my desire to have a figgy-scented home, I went the path that requires the least memory, and I purchased the pricey diffuser. When I brought it home, I simply pulled the stopper from the curvy bottle, dipped the reeds in the amber-colored oil, flipped them over, and was gifted with scent. Continual, fresh, musky, figgy scent.   My room is not filled with the scent, however. It stays on my desk. I love this most about my delicate reed diffuser. I am seduced to sit, relax, and breathe. Then I begin to write. Despite the cyclone on my desk – the papers from work, school, my children’s schools; bills; the empty, and half empty, water bottles; the mints; the highlighters; the four Sticky Notes pads; the binders; the checkbooks; the makeup; and my hat. Despite the chaos, I breathe.


*Not his real name.

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