tiny baby shirt

The Smell of the Very Last Baby

When the last of my baby boys grew out of his infant clothes I passed all of the marvelous tiny baby things I’d accumulated to another friend who needed them.

Almost all.

One of the Maker’s tee shirts (also worn by his older brothers when they were newborns) I folded carefully — unwashed — into a little Burt’s Bees bag and stored it, along with the paper tape used to measure the newborn baby, in a small cardboard box under my bathroom sink.

I was careful not to open the bag.

Perhaps twice in the next three to five years did I lock myself in my bathroom for a precious few minutes, away from the craziness of a house with three little boys and the demands of work and motherhood, to pull out the tiny shirt and hold it to my face to breathe in the last of the new baby fragrance. That milky, drooly, nuzzly warm skin smell, with its attendant memories of nursing, patting, cradling, and time spent gazing in astonishment at yet another sleeping, beautiful child.

One day when the Maker was about 6 years old, he came to find me. “Look at this funny little shirt!” he exclaimed, waving it in the air with one dirty hand. My heart sank. No more baby smell, I thought. But then I laughed.

“Can you believe your big brothers used to wear that shirt?” I asked. He squinted at me in frank suspicion.

“It’s true,” I promised, and together we examined the little shirt. He snapped and unsnapped it, turned it inside out, and considered whether it would fit on our cat, Katie, who was making happy figure eights between us.

tiny baby shirt

When I showed him how I had cut off the tags so it wouldn’t irritate the little baby’s skin, he had a sudden revelation. He’s always hated tags in his shirt. “Did I use to wear this?” he asked, astonished.

And I found that my throat had closed up and I couldn’t answer.

So instead I settled for a nod and an enormous hug, one that I knew I could come back to, long after the smell of the very last baby was gone.

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9 Responses to The Smell of the Very Last Baby

  1. The First November 20, 2009 at 6:28 pm #

    Wow here’s something I didn’t know about my own mother!! She boxes, does MMA fighting, hangs out at my dad’s gigs until after midnight, was a church pastor for about 14 years, sniffs unwashed shirts that are over 14 years old for memories… *shakes head in wonder*

  2. Sine Botchen November 20, 2009 at 9:26 pm #

    wow! that was really touching.. ‘cept for the whole baby-hurl/sour-milk t-shirt huffing part.. jk..

    when my nephew, Alex ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/12675847@N07/4070951752/ ) was like 6 months old he’d pretty much been in every bar/club in Austin (with ear plugs stuffed into his tiny little ears) while his dad was living the life of a rock star.. one night i was walking down 6th street with him held against my shoulder and all the girls i passed had some comment to make (babies are almost as good as puppies when it comes to chick-magnets). it wasn’t until we got back to the car that i figured it all out.. i was wearing a black t-shirt and he had hurled formula all down my back.. yeah, well, for about 20 minutes i thought i had it goin on.. narf!

  3. Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 21, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    People are so like hatin’ on the baby-smelling, whatup widdat? I think you are both secret baby-smell lovers, you just don’t want to admit it in blog-public.

    Come OUT of your baby-smellin closet. Be released!

  4. Jess November 22, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    I love this… I wish I had thought to do that with one of my wee man’s shirts. Of course, I do have a big plastic bin filled with cute little clothes I couldn’t bear to part with 🙂
    .-= Jess´s last blog ..renewabelle: Nothing says "thanks for spending so long making dinner, Mom" quite like howling cries because he doesn’t want to eat it. #venting =-.

    • Lisa Creech Bledsoe November 27, 2009 at 1:15 pm #

      I have a small box of those, too, Jessiebelle. I don’t think I’ve seen it since we moved to this area; it’s about time for a trip up to the attic. Post pix when you open yours again!

  5. Terri December 28, 2009 at 7:56 pm #

    There is nothing that comes close to the new baby smell. I love it… I need to start bagging my girl’s clothes now… she’s growing up real fast.

    Terri’s last Post: Ezema Diet Tips on LiveStrong.com

  6. Mary September 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I LOVE this. Just love it.

  7. Pam September 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm #

    I needed a good cry.

  8. Lisa Creech Bledsoe September 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm #

    Shucks, y’all. Makin’ me tear up. Thanks for the love.
    But I’m not surprised at how powerful this is — they’re babies for such a short time! (It just seemed like forever at the time. :))

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