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Overheard
‘Mom, You Smell Funny’

Posted Jan 03 2010 7:02am

My wife comes out of our daughter’s bedroom after trying to put her to sleep. “Lael says I smell funny. Do I?”

I get up from my computer. “No, you smell pretty good to me,” as I give her a playful sniff and a hug. That elicits a laugh.

“Good, would you tell her I don’t smell?”

I walk into Lael’s room. “Daddy, mom smells funny.”

“No she doesn’t. Now let’s go to sleep so we can go to the Children’s Museum tomorrow.” I explain that the Children’s Museum is kind of like a big, indoor playground.

When it comes to smells, I probably should explain. You see, I have fairly extraordinary abilities; I have one of those noses that you commonly find on those New Yorker political cartoons. (Sadly, David Levine died last week.)

But nose size aside, my son, who has a cute button-sized proboscis, also has exquisite olfactory abilities. We figure that’s why he hates all food with flavor, complexity, character or chlorophyll.

While my wife’s smell detector is generally back to its post-pregnancy normalcy, Lael’s sense of scent seemed decidedly less than impressive. But starting a few weeks ago, Lael began running an almost nonstop commentary on this odor or that.

Examples:

“I smell popcorn daddy.” Dang, she caught mom and dad sneaking a bag while the kids were upstairs watching Disney Playhouse on my computer.

“Something smells fishy. Can I have some?” Whenever I have canned trout filets for lunch, Lael comes running, no matter how far she is from me.

“Daddy, you smell like chocolate. Can I have some?” She can smell the stuff on my breath three hours after I sneak my morning wake-up dose.

“The bathroom smells funny.” Well, yeah, her overnight diapers tend to grow pungent when I’m, um, lax in emptying the garbage cans. Only now, she complains within hours of fermentation.

What’s really odd: Lael is one of those perpetually stuffed up children. Not dripping nose, mind you, but I can hear her inhalations from anywhere in the house. And poor little Lael has snored from the day she was born. But I never would have guessed that my little girl can tell the difference between a Chardonnay and a Merlot just by getting a whiff. (Okay, that’s the only one I made up.)

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