It was only my mum died that I realized how her smell divided my life into safe and unsafe. When I smelled face powder, cigarettes, lipstick, when she hugged me, it was as though the world settled down. If the world was a horse, it stopped trying to throw me. I see that scent of face powder now as a chalky-coloured rope. I couldn’t hold it, but I inhaled that fragrance on her skin and on her soft clothes. It divided my life into squares, oblongs of time when we were together for visits. Often, when I came to my mother’s house, it was because I felt very unsafe elsewhere. The hugs, the greetings, were a respite from the rest of my scary life.
When I dream of my mother now, I never know she’s dead. All I know is I’m really really happy to see her. We hug. She’s shorter than I am, a slight woman with eyes the colour of faded denim, smartly-cut white hair and thick glasses. Then, in the dream, I hold her at arm’s length and tell her she’s looking well. This is always true. Then I solve whatever problem my mother has; there’s always something she needs help with. She fusses a little, my mom; she’s getting older. I am a good daughter. I help her move. I get tickets. I find lost objects. We work together in her kitchen as we have done many times before. It’s a new kitchen, that I do note that with some surprise.
It does not bother me that I don’t inhale the scent of face powder and cigarettes; I don’t remember this was part of our reality. Only when I wake do I remember.
Every time my mom and I greet one another with such joy. That, at least, hasn’t changed.