Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Where the World Is

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It is a rich aroma, an earthy perfume, the scent of freshly turned soil. It exudes through the thin drum of skin over the place where bone hasn't closed. It is pheromonic -- this smell nestling against the down of my newborn daughter's head, rising briefly into my nostrils as I inhale deeply, then swirling and gathering again after I exhale reluctantly, pressing lips to her feathery hair to breathe it in once more, to inflate with it.
I discovered this smell within hours of my daughter's birth, after the morphine had begun to thin in my system, after I stopped shaking. Twenty-four hours of labor followed by caesarian had wracked my body and wrung my nerves, but the epiphany of my daughter's scent soothed me to tears. I had anticipated something cloying and powdery and pink. Instead, what emitted from her head was not an aroma but an atmosphere, the fertile climate of an enchanted forest. I relaxed into the world she evoked, grounded in the wonder of my love for her, and we napped.

Now she is four, and I believe the last traces of that magic, mushroomy fragrance slipped away when she weaned, just before her first birthday. As the scent grew fainter I would pull it up into my brain, forcing a crease, working to commit it to memory. I wanted to remember how our world became encapsulated, how her scent was the weather that swirled around the globe of us. I found it grounding and constant. When it was gone, I imagined there would be nothing like it again.

Last week I held a baby. A beautiful boy four months in the world--wise-eyed and willing to be held. My voice twittered and fluted in an attempt to enchant him, really to allow me more time to remain enchanted by him. I bounced him and hugged him and tested his grip. Then I sniffed his head.

There, unexpectedly nestled in his silken hair-that lost sylvan smell. My daughter's smell.

I inhaled, eddying into a cellular memory of primeval mists, of rain-soaked stones, of the eventual oak contained in an acorn-a nascent atmosphere voltaic with change, yet delicate as a fern's fist unfurling. Smelling his sweet, earthy head transported me once more to that vibrant place of portent and possibility, a place I know now I will find again.

It's always somewhere in the air.


A member of the Writers Guild of America, West and mother of a wonderfully funny and artistic ten-year-old daughter, Karen Kasaba’s work as a playwright and screenwriter has earned multiple awards including an Emmy nomination. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Santa Barbara Magazine (Fiction Competition Winner), Hawai‘i Review, Chariton Review, The Summerset Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Collectedstories.com, Westways, ByLine, American Cinematographer, Los Angeles Times, and The Santa Barbara Independent, among others. She has completed a novel, Dreaming of Daylight, and is currently at work on another.


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