My dad’s smell was different from all the others. It was the most unique in my family because it came from him as opposed to something he wore or applied.
My mom’s smell was a combination of whatever lotions she used. Maybe the smell of her makeup. After she went for a run she smelled like damp laundry drying on the line. She never wore perfume because my dad was sensitive to artificial scents. I now hate perfume too.
My sister was dominated by shampoo — Herbal Essences or maybe a variety of Suave that she wished was Herbal Essences. Later in her life it was Tide. When I now get my her son’s hand-me-downs, the Tide smell carries over for a few washes. My daughter will take a big whiff and declare that they smell like Sammy. I like that the same smell reminds us of mother and son.
My brother smelled like a little boy — sweatpants mixed with rarely brushed teeth. Usually with some notes of artificial maple syrup from the sleeve of his shirt.
My dad and I had a goodnight hug ritual that continued until I was 20 years old and I saw him for the last time. Every night I’d hug him in his recliner and exchange an 'I love you'.
My dad called these magic hugs and said the harder I squeezed the better he felt (living with a variety of autoimmune-related illnesses meant he was pretty much always uncomfortable). I remember being struck by how strong my dad’s hugs were, even though his body was so weak.
A few days after he died I walked into his closet, encircled his hanging shirts in my arms and breathed in deeply. I could still smell him there. I remember wondering if it’d be the last time I’d smell him, and it was. His things were cleared out pretty quickly. Gifted to friends and family members who could put them to use.
I fantasize about being able to smell his smell again. I imagine walking down the street and suddenly catching a trace of his smell on a cool fall day. I see his scent stopping me in my tracks and dropping me to my knees. I can no longer remember the smell, but of course, just the slightest hint of it would be all it would take to remember.