When I was eleven years old, my parents put me on a Greyhound to Boston to visit my cousin Carolyn. I was an awkward pre-teen and she was a proper grown-up, in her mid-twenties, working as a teacher and living in an apartment at the top of a house, with sloped ceilings and just her one queen-size bed that I was to share with her for the weekend.

I adored my cousin like no other person in my life. When I was really young, I’d follow her around like a puppy. She taught me how to draw flowers out of dozens of tiny squiggles. As I grew up, my adoration of her grew exponentially. She had style. She read lots of books. She was an artist. She had her own apartment.

During that weekend visit, I stayed out till midnight for the first time, and ate an ice-cream cone as we walked by street performers in Harvard Square. We ducked into a convenience store during an unexpected downpour. She read me Stephen King short stories when we were tucked into her bed after all those adventures. At the bus station before I left for home, she gave me the book. I proceeded to read most of King’s oeuvre, as it existed at the time, before my thirteenth birthday. (Carolyn admitted one day that she’s horrified that she read me Stephen King stories when I was eleven. I assured her it was the perfect choice.)

Carolyn’s lived in New York for a couple of decades now, and her apartment remains my favourite place to visit. It always smells of a particular thing I’ve never been able to put my finger on, though I’ve bought the same kind of lotion she uses and sneak sniffs of her shampoo every time I’m in her shower, ever on a quest to bring that smell home with me. I’ve always thought, deep down somewhere in the recesses of my mind, that if my home could smell like hers, it would be more special, and maybe would seem magical to our guests like Carolyn’s home is magical to me.

The soap I just made smells exactly that way. Which means that because there are nearly twenty bars of it curing in my studio right now, pretty much my whole house smells magical. When I walked in after dropping Owen off at daycare this morning, I nearly had to sit down from the happiness.

I still have no idea what it is in my cousin’s place that smells exactly like this, but after more than twenty years in search of it, I’m a little at a loss for what to do now that I’ve found it for myself.

I did, of course, ask Carolyn about the source of the scent many times over the years. She always had no idea what exactly I was referring to. Because, of course, she smells it all the time. Now that my house smells like it, I’m determined to not let it smell so strongly for long, because I’d be sad to habituate to it; it wouldn’t be special anymore.

But for now, I’m sitting in happy.

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