The other day I dropped Little A. off at tae kwon do as usual, then headed to the bus stop to pick up S. I checked email as I waited in my car, content with my five-minute break in a busy afternoon. All was well.
The bus pulled up; the students piled out. Judging by the look on her face, S. had a decent day. All was still well.
She opened the door, plopped in the car, and started talking—because she never stops. She probably talked all the way from the bus to the car, I just couldn’t hear her. My brain started the familiar, “Oh, sweet powers that be, I can’t follow this—the speed, the randomness. I. Just. Can’t.” Following quickly behind came the equally familiar, “Don’t tune out! Ask relevant questions. She’s your kid, for Pete’s sake!”
All of this came to a screeching halt when a palpable wave of scent hit me. Hard.
It smelled like every fruit flavor Bubbalicious ever made had been sprayed in my car via a high pressure air hose. Through my rising nausea, I finally found a relevant question. I attempted to stop the runaway train of words.
“Sarah, did you eat something on the bus?”
“…blah blah blah. Did I eat something? No. Why?”
“Did someone spray—?”
“Wait. Um…. I did—I mean, I ate, like, I ate my pretzels.”
At that point I could tell she was starting to worry because the number of verbal pauses in her sentences increased exponentially. So I tried to reassure her WHILE cross-examining her.
“It’s okay, sweetie. There’s just a very strong artificial fruit flavor smell in the car now. I was wondering if you ate any candy or gum…? I’m just curious.”
“No, definitely not.”
“Did someone spray hair spray near you?”
“Did the bus smell funny?”
“No. What do you mean? I don’t smell anything.”
Our house lies 1.3 miles from the bus stop and I spent the entire drive scouring my brain for possible sources of the smell, only to be shot down by firm denials and repeated questions about whether or not she actually smelled.
As we pulled into the garage, I got the sound many parents of pre-teen girls know all too well.
“What is it, sweetie?”
“Well, my friend let me use some of her hand sanitizer at lunch.”
“Wow. That’s powerful stuff! How about you wash your hands while you’re in there?”
She washed hands, dumped off her lunchbox, and decided to take her backpack with her to tae kwon do to do homework there. Meanwhile, I rolled down windows.
The smell improved a little when she got back in, but I’d really expected the alcohol-based scent to be GONE. Still, I made it through tae kwon do sitting next to my daughter while she gave off waves of scent indicating someone had farted the whole Skittles rainbow on her.
So we drive home and the puke-inducing perfume gets worse, if possible, in the car. Just as we get into the house, S. slings her backpack onto its usual resting place and looks at the net pocket on the outside.
“OH NO! My friend put the hand sanitizer IN my backpack!”
“Okay, okay. Did it spill? Is the lid open?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. Wait—there IS no lid!!!”
So in the middle of me trying to feed the dog, answer Little A.’s questions, and start a quick dinner, I’m coaching S. to wipe up the car seat, wipe up the backpack, and wipe up the floor. Then it hit me. Why????
“So why did your friend put her hand sanitizer in your backpack?”
“Um, I don’t know. I didn’t SEE her do it!”
Okay, she’s upset. “I was just wondering why she didn’t put it in hers.”
“Well, she didn’t have a backpack at lunch.”
“What about her lunchbox?”
“She didn’t have one today.”
“So she just walked to lunch holding an open bottle of hand sanitizer???”
“NO!” She rolls her eyes. “She FOUND it.”
“On the bench at lunch.”
I took seventeen deep breaths.
“So I guess someone else left the bottle there because, oh, say, it had no lid???”
“Yeah. NO. I dunno—I didn’t SEE her put it in my backpack!”
The dog got fed, we got fed, many hugs were had all around, all ended well.