Scent Notes: Sweetgrass growing along the banks of a crystal clear river with a hint of wintergreen in the air.

“I love my children, I love my children, I love my children,” Marian mumbled under her breath as she cleaned up the playroom for at least the fifth time today. She looked up at the clock. The little plastic hands were mocking her by saying it was not even noon. It was a Saturday, and her three kids were running amok. She had two twin 5 year old girls, followed up by a 3 year old boy, and it seemed like life never stopped. Her husband traveled for work 3 weeks out of the month, effectively making her a single mom. Plus, she had a full-time corporate job and was getting her MBA online in the evenings. If it wasn’t for her neighbor Rhonda, she’d lose her mind.

Rhonda was a godsend. She was retired, a grandma several times over, a widow, and a genuinely kind, laid-back person. Most of Rhonda’s family lived across the country, if not on a different continent, and she used her fabulous, calming, sweet grandmother energy to the benefit of Marian and her children. Marian could never adequately repay her, but she was incredibly grateful for the support. But it was the weekend, when Marian could hardly bother Rhonda to come over and help her with her screaming hellions running laps around the house. Rhonda usually came over in the afternoons, after school and daycare, to help Marian get the kids fed and settled down so Marian could eat cold leftovers quickly over the sink and then do schoolwork in bed with a (large) glass of wine until she passed out around 9PM, absolutely exhausted. More than once she awoke with a start in the middle of the night with a glass of wine spilled on her/the bed. It’s why she switched to white wine.

It was only noon, and she desperately needed a shower and was craving something sweet to eat, but knew if the kids heard the sound of any wrapper opening, she’d be passing out snacks and would have no way to get them to eat broccoli that evening. Deep breaths, she reminded herself. Maybe she could get some schoolwork done while they continued to rampage around the house. And at that moment, twin cries sounded through the air. “MoooOOOOoooommmyyyy!” Nope. No time to herself today, apparently. 

Just then, the doorbell rang. “If this is someone trying to sell me knives or encyclopedias, I am going to lose my shi-” Before she could finish the sentence, the door opened, and there was Rhonda. “Hello, darling!” she said, hugging Marian. “Rhonda! You aren’t supposed to be here today! Please go home and enjoy your weekend, seriously.” The crying continued from upstairs. “Nonsense.” Rhonda waved her hand near Marian’s face. “Go get the kids, I have everything ready.” Marian then noticed the pile of bags in Rhonda’s other hand. Before she could comment, Rhonda shooed her again. “Go on, it’s fine. I’m here now. My motherly spider senses were tingling. Go!” Marion headed upstairs, let the kinds know Rhonda was over, and the crying ceased immediately. They flew downstairs, where she was waiting with open arms and homemade brownies. “Come have sweets, little sweets!” she said, as each kid grabbed a brownie and started chowing down. “Mom too! Come grab two brownies and then go do work. We’ll be just fine.” Marion obliged, grabbing two brownies and heading up to her bedroom. The brownies were, of course, absolutely incredible. She was happy she’d only grabbed two; she could have absolutely eaten an entire pan by herself in no time. She kept an ear out, listening to hear if (when) the kids started screaming and fighting and annoying poor, sweet Rhonda. 

But it didn’t happen. Marian was able to get work done for a few weeks’ worth of classes, fuelled by the brownies, Rhonda’s presence, and the sheer silence in the house. Marian felt amazing. She’d get up and relieve Rhonda of her children, right after she did some social media scrolling. It was a great shock when she found herself waking up several hours later. She looked out the window; it was dark. Her house was silent, and she was flooded with fear. She sprinted out of her room and down the stairs, only to find Rhonda sitting on the couch with a cup of tea and a book. “Where are the kids? Is everyone alright?” “Everything is absolutely fine. Did you get a lot of work done?” Rhonda asked, putting down the book. “Yes, I did, but then I accidentally fell asleep, I’m so sorry.” Rhonda smiled. “Good. I’m glad you had a nap. Mothers need naps more than their children ever do.” Marian chuckled. “But seriously, okay, what happened while I was sleeping?” “Oh, the kids and I played for a long time! I let them have brownies for lunch, but I raided your fridge and fed them chicken and broccoli with wild rice for dinner. They ate as much as I put in front of them. Then we watched some animated television show, and I put them to bed. They’ve been asleep for about a half an hour now.” Marian was aghast. She would still be cooking dinner if it were her, and the kids would be overtired, overhungry, and overwhelming her. “And now, I think you should go upstairs and take a relaxing bath. I cleaned your tub while you were asleep.” “That’s awfully sweet of you, but I couldn’t, really. Thank you so much for your help, Rhonda. I didn’t deserve all this help today, and I so appreciate it, but you should go and enjoy your child-free, clean, quiet home.” 

Rhonda grabbed Marian’s hand. Marian felt a strange current pass between them, like Rhonda was passing along an ancient secret, something seismic and generational and life-changing. “My house is quiet and clean because it’s just me. I miss the days of taking care of little ones. But also, have you heard of the phrase ‘self-care’? It’s going around like wildfire on the internet now, but I’ve practiced it for years. It’s not all face masks and charging crystals by candlelight or whatever. It’s taking the time to take care of yourself, in all your messy glory. It’s going to therapy, it’s going back to school, it’s remembering that you are a whole person who needs as much taking care of as your children do. You have an inner child that needs tending to, that deserves a brownie for lunch sometimes. And yes, you need time to be an adult and do adult things like pay bills, work, schedule appointments, and all the other boring, tedious adult things we have to do. It’s okay to ask for help.” 

Marian was surprised to find herself crying. “It’s okay, sweetheart,” Rhonda said, pulling her into a hug. “You deserve affection and gentle care. This has been passed down in my family through generations of mothers, a spirit of mothering oneself in addition to mothering her children. And once you wake up from your nap, have a bath.” “A bath?!” Marian asked, incredulously. “I haven’t had a bath since I was a child!” “Well then that’s part of the problem!” Rhonda said, releasing her from the hug. “And I’m glad I came prepared!” She reached under the couch and pulled out a new bag, which she handed to Marian. Marian pried it open and found bath bombs, bath salts, bubble bath, scented candles, an inflatable pillow, scented lotion, a paperback book, and somehow even a foldable tray that went across the width of the tub. “Crying is a great way to release tension, but baths are my personal favorite way to take deep, gentle care of yourself. Water is spiritual. Any time you can submerge yourself in water, you should. My family has a long, storied line of water spirits, including myself. I have taken a bath nearly every day of my life, even as a busy mom of five kids. They knew I needed my time to myself, and I have never regretted a bath, or a swim, or even just sticking my feet in a crystal-clear river. Now, go. Take a bath. And take a bottle of wine with you.” Marian took the bag, grabbed a bottle of wine and a glass, and went up to her bathroom, where she found a set of fluffy, clean towels, and a clean bathtub. She ran the water as hot as it would go, added an absurd amount of every bath product in the bag, inflating the pillow, and setting up the tray with the wine and book, she sank in. The water held her, cleansed her, made her feel like a human again. Maybe there was something to what Rhonda was saying after all. The water shimmered, bubbled, and glowed in response. And Marian let herself float away for a little while.

Scent Notes: Sweetgrass growing along the banks of a crystal clear river with a hint of wintergreen in the air.