A new year is about to begin, I’m ready for a new year. I’m ready to create some new memories. We will ring in the New Year at Disney World — what better place to be at the start of something new (it is the happiest place on Earth).
I’ve made arrangements to go to a luau on New Year’s day. Seems like the perfect combination of sensory overload to kick things off in the right direction. There will be pineapple, and fruity drinks to be sure. A pig roasted in the ground and fire dancers — and perhaps the ever-present smell of burnt hair.
Every Christmas Eve, my family and I gather at church for the candlelight service. I know that singing Silent Night by candlelight should make me all weepy — that’s not exactly the feeling I would describe that takes over my senses — not normally anyway. Instead, this night every year has horrified me to the point of near anxiety attack. You light the candles, hold them up high, walk slowly to the front door — not blowing them out until you reach the door. A disaster waiting to happen — every Christmas Eve.
My mother was a very “made up” kind of woman, in an Elizabeth Taylor kind of way. She never went to sleep without applying lipstick and apply lipstick was the first thing she did when she woke up in the morning (yes, the complete opposite of me — Three Secrets Revealed). She wore panty hose all the time — even with blue jeans. She had enough jewelry to wear a different piece with every outfit, and she loved to shop — even if it was just to look. She had a set time to get her hair done every week followed by a manicure — and she single-handedly made the hairspray business a billion dollar venture (we won’t mention global warming).
So, every year, I strategically placed myself at her side. Making sure there was an adequate amount of imaginary bubble space so that the fumes of the hairspray never came in contact with the open flame. I did very well. There were a couple of close calls over the years (one in which, yes, she ignited her own hair) but nothing that ever caused any more damage than leaving the smell of burnt hair, wafting throughout the church.
There’s a distinct weirdness when you look around for the person you are supposed to protect, and they’re gone. I’ve had that sinking feeling of panic with my kids before. When I’ve turned around at the store and they were gone. Your insides convulse, your heart practically stops, your head spins — if only for the few seconds it takes to locate them. There’s relief at the thought of not having to worry, one day. Relief that you don’t have to stand watch — I hope that doesn’t make us inherently selfish.
Isn’t it funny how smells can bring back memories? There are times I can smell my grandmother’s perfume — as if she were standing right next to me. My children have expressed to me on many occasions how they thought they had smelled their Nanny.
I’m going to miss the smell of my mother’s burnt hair this year, I’m going to miss the stress of worrying how close she is to the flame, I’m going to miss … her. But, amidst all my missing — there’s sure to be twinges of relief, perhaps that is what scares me the most.
I’ll be at the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, again this year. And there is sure to be someone who gets too close to the flame — and the smell of burnt hair will hang in the air… just long enough.