The Scent of Guilt


I have always hated the smell of potpourri.

My family moved when I was five years old, since the school system near our first house was dreadful. I hadn't yet started kindergarten, since I was born three days after the September 1 cut-off. At the time, I was very into ballet and dance and reading, but I don't remember having any friends. I wasn't sad about leaving anyone behind, but I was terrified of the objects I would be parting with. I didn't want the house itself to feel abandoned or unloved.

We went back to visit the house shortly after settling in to our new home, and the lady who had bought the old place was kind enough to invite us inside to show us what she had done with it. I was bravely trying to fight back a veritable ocean of tears, silently sending apologies to every dust bunny and light fixture and even the creaks in the floor for leaving them behind on such short notice. The woman must have seen my quivering lip; she gave me a pair of ballet slippers stuffed with potpourri as a parting gift. I took them greedily and was somehow assured that the house was in good hands. But even then, I hated the smell of the potpourri.

I still have those ballet slippers, tucked away in a box with my baby books and other various paraphernalia from my early childhood. It wasn't until just now, however, that I realized that perhaps the slippers might be the reason why I so intensely dislike that particular odor. Or maybe it really is that terrible.