Sara Whitman

Two Days

Filed By Sara Whitman | May 09, 2009 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: alone time, child abuse, cigarette smoking, solo vacation

Two days and counting...

Yesterday, I unpacked boxes of glasses from my mother's house. They have been in the basement for two years. I finally went through them to get the wine glasses I wanted to take Downeast.

They still smelled like cigarettes and white diamond perfume. It gave me quite a headache.

I realize today, that I am very much like my mother. I love my time alone, crave it, and always find space for it. As I put the other glasses, the funky ones that I would never buy, into the cabinet I wonder if I'll ever be able to use them.

I don't want to be that much like my mother.

Lately, as I've walked through the dining room, I smell cigarette smoke. All of the furniture, the artwork, the rug, were hers. I pulled my son Ben into the room once- Do you smell smoke?


Are you sure?

Mom, it doesn't smell like anything.

I think she's haunting me. I don't know what she would be mad about. Okay, I can think of a couple of things but overall, nothing big in comparison to the fights we had while she was alive.

Except the book. That, she would not be so happy about.

As I get ready to go on this trip, this sojourn, the past is starting to creep back into my dreams. Last night, I had a horrible nightmare about my abuser. I was trying to get away from the rage.

Whatever it took.

I kept waking up, and reaching out to see if my sweetie was still there. She was. The cats were both perched at the end of the bed, thrilled with the midnight petting.

Will I be able to handle these dreams alone?

I keep hearing my sister tell me to let it go, just let it go.

I can't.

Maybe... I won't. Not until I make some lemonade from the lemons.

My mother can haunt me. There is something familiar about the smell that feels good. If she had lived to see it, she would have loved downeast. Understood my need to go there.

Two days... I'm a little frantic getting ready, finishing laundry, seeing people, going to baseball games, track meets.

All with a waft of cigarette smoke following behind me.

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Not all hauntings are born from anger so she may not be angry at all. She may be conveying her approval of some things. How does it feel when you smell her or sense her?

Memory associated scents! It's fascinating how those scents from the past can trigger our memories. I usually find mine to be mostly pleasant memories, spring seems to bring these on even more. I love the smell of spring and nature coming on in full bloom, I have no fondness for pollen though. Cigarette smoke, eeeuck! Donate the funky glasses to the Good Will...

I smell cigarette smoke when it isn't there either. I believe it is my grandfather letting me know he is near. I treasure it. Does your lemonade come with icecubes? It's better cold.

um... I usually feel very nervous, Rob, when I smell the smoke. It's like... ok, what have I done wrong NOW?

but it's funny, Ewe, I have to say, there is a plastic box her her scarves I have kept, that smell just like her- cigarettes and white diamond perfume- and everyone once in a while I bury my face in one.

but it's when I choose it that it feels good.

Try this approach then:

If you can smell the scarves when you want and the aroma is good, but the smell of smoke when you're stressed freaks you out then I'd suggest that it's obviously a stress trick your mind is playing on you. So fool it back. (And as a person who's mind regularly plays tricks on him, I can say with authority that this works sometimes!)

When you smell the smoke and aren't choosing to smell it, consider this. (And I know you aren't particularly religious.)

She's not "haunting" you because she's upset with you. She's dead and has moved on to peace now. One of the things you have to conquer to truly be at peace with yourself is forgiving both you and others. I know she wasn't always the nicest person in real life, but can't you imagine that once she's dead she was given the full view of things instead of just her own narrow interests? And once she saw all of that, she realized her own failings?

So now she watches over you (and your sister) as a way of penance and - finally - motherly love. You smell her because she knows you're stressed and while she wouldn't be there while she was alive, now she simply can't. So the smell is the only way she has to faintly let you know that she loves you and is watching over you as much as she can.

The reaction of wonder what you have done wrong sounds like a long time thing that you will have to think through. Bill offers a nice view if you can embrace it.

The idea that you use her scarves to touch her memory is cool. Smells are powerful things.Just as smells can trigger memory, memory can trigger smells.