by Aimee Farley
“Mommy, may I please have an orange with my lunch?” my son shouts from the dining room as I begin to prepare his peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the kitchen.
“Of course,” I say with a smile and a hint of irritation in my voice. It makes me happy that my son prefers to eat fruit instead of handfuls of chips or crackers, but why does peeling an orange have to be so tedious and messy? The rind stubbornly clings to the fruit, and I always get the zest stuck under my fingernails.
“I don’t want an orange,” my daughter chimes in. Of course she wouldn’t want the same thing I am preparing for her brother.
I open the fridge and grab three oranges. I figure that my son will want to eat more than one, and I will eat whatever is left abandoned on my daughter’s plate.
I hear giggles followed by footsteps running around the dining room table.
“I’d like you two to settle down,” I yell from the kitchen. “I’m almost finished with making lunch.” That’s a lie. I have at least five minutes left of peeling oranges. I shake my head as my kids continue to run around the table. It’s not necessarily the running around in the house that bothers me. It’s the inevitable crashing of thirty and forty pound bodies on the hardwood floor. I can no longer swoop them up in my arms and rest them on my hip while I finish peeling these oranges.
The rinds and remnants of white spongy-like skin begin to pile on the counter. As I hold the freshly peeled orange in my hand and admire my work, a rush of emotions suddenly punch me in the gut. I hold the orange closer to my nose. My sense of smell is very poor–which I blame on allergies—but oranges, oranges I can smell. I breathe another whiff through my nostrils. The orange smells so comforting.
While my hands tediously work to peel the next orange, I begin to daydream about all of the other scents that are potent enough for me to smell. Cilantro. Freshly picked tomatoes in summer. Hops growing on the vine. Lime slices. My babies.
“Mommy, is lunch ready yet?”
Oh, my babies. A few days after my first child was born, I remember walking through Walgreens by myself to pick up some nursing pads and other items that I didn’t realize I would need after giving birth. It was one of my first trips out without my new baby with me. It felt good; I felt free. This new purpose had been churning and burgeoning inside of my body and soul for months, and for a few minutes, roaming the aisles of Walgreens solo and postpartum, I was finally able to take a deep breath. I soaked it all in, and in that moment, my breasts started leaking and a wave of my son’s newborn scent reached the core of my being. My son wasn’t near me, but I could smell him, and all I wanted to do was go home and hold him (and change my shirt).
“I’m almost done. I bet you are going to like the way these oranges smell,” I manage to say with tears streaming down my face. I’m crying. I am standing in my kitchen crying over the scent of these beautiful oranges that I didn’t even know I wanted. I’m crying because my two beautiful children have lost their newborn scent. A scent that faded, little by little, as each day passed after I first held them. I don’t remember noticing when the scent left them, but I notice now more than ever. I smell the oranges again. This time something is missing.
“You know,” I say from the kitchen to my kids who are finally getting settled in their chairs at the table, “I’ve always thought that oranges should have been called butterfly fruit.”
“Well, when you peel them open a certain way, they look like butterflies.” I place the butterflies on their plates. I wipe my tears, pick up their plates and carry them into the dining room. I set a pink plate in front of my daughter and a green plate in front of my son. “See. Don’t they look like butterflies?”
My son and daughter look at the oranges and burst out with excitement, “Whoa! Cool! How did you do that?”
I smile as I walk back into the kitchen. It’s funny how something so ordinary can seem so magical to my children. My son inhales his oranges before I return to the dining room with his sandwich. And my daughter, well she decides that she does want to eat some of her orange slices after all.
My son giggles and says, “Mommy, my butterflies are gone! I gobbled them up!”
“Are they fluttering around in your belly now?” I ask him.
“Yeah,” my son and daughter start giggling again. “Butterflies are flying in our tummies!”
I go back to the kitchen to get some water for my kiddos. I fill their cups and think about how I had felt them fluttering inside of me. They used to be such a part of me, and now here they are walking and talking and fighting for their independence. Every now and then I feel a phantom kick in my belly, torturing me with sweet memories of a part of my life that is now far beyond my grasp.
I return to the dining room with water. I hand my daughter her purple cup and my son his blue cup. I pull out a chair and sit down to enjoy their giggles.
“You can have the rest of my oranges, mommy. I’m done,” my daughter says.
“Thanks for sharing,” I say to her as I grab a slice from her plate. I hold the slice up to my nose and give it one more sniff. It smells so good. I want to hold on to this smell for as long as I can. I eat the slice of orange, and I pray that I feel it flutter, too.
Aimee Farley is a mother, wife, blogger, and dreamer. She writes about her adventures, her love for Minnesota, and life as a stay-at-home-mom at Why I Left My Job. Her writing has also been featured on awesome sites like Scary Mommy and HelloGiggles.
Photo credit: Orange Glow by Chris Waits is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.