I know I'm not the only mother who cleans like a maniac before leaving town. I do love the feeling of returning to a fresh home but if I'm being honest, am mostly motivated by the possibility that we could die while we're away, and I'm not about to be judged for my housekeeping after I'm gone.
One Christmas, upon returning from a trip to Arizona, we pulled into the garage and saw a sign taped to the door that leads inside. It was on orange paper, and written in Sharpie in a child's handwriting said, "FAMILY SMELL."
I'm sorry, what?
I asked who left it there and Cal perked up, excited, "Oh yeah, me!" he said. "Family smell!" then unbuckled and and bolted into the house.
Confused and a frankly a little scared, I followed and found him wandering slowly inside, sniffing like a cadaver dog. Before I could decide whether it was better to ask or just not know, he explained.
"Every family has a smell Mom," he said. "When you walk in their house you smell it, and you can smell it on their clothes even when they're not home." He proceeded to provide specific examples of families we knew with distinctive smells.
Resisting the compulsion to suggest better uses for his scientific inclinations, I listened as he explained that the problem with family smells is that you don't know your own because you're so used to it. According to Cal, the only time a person can identify their family smell is upon returning from a long absence, like a vacation. Not about to miss such a rare opportunity, he had left the "Family Smell" sign on the door as a reminder before we left town.
He had a point I suppose, and I'm relieved to report that our own family smell is quite pleasant; light and airy with top notes of vanilla cookie wax melt and Lysol Lemon Breeze.
Still, I'm haunted by the thought that, heaven forbid, we had not returned from that Christmas trip to Arizona, and whoever returned to our home would have been greeted with the words "Family Smell," and left to wonder why why why why
Going on record here in case it ever happens again.