Scratch and Sniff

Seeing tears glittering in my daughter’s eyes, the nurse gently distracted her by sweetly pointing out, “I have some stickers for you.”

Niki’s eyes lit-up and the tears disappeared. No fuss, no worries, life was good! Forgetting her doctor’s office anxieties, she leaned over to examine the stickers the nurse held in the palm of her hand.

It has always amazed me how much my children loved getting stickers. I found they worked just as well for bribes as for rewards. Everyone seemed to be handing them out. My girls received them not just at the doctor’s office, but from the dentist, their teachers, the bank and at birthday parties.

By the time Niki was in grade school and Tammie was starting kindergarten, the types of stickers had multiplied. Plain pictures on a sticky-backed paper became passé. Stickers came out with textured surfaces. Some were padded plastic. My children especially loved the ones of the latest Disney movie princesses.

One day, as we were shopping with Grammie, Tammie received a rather plain-looking, slightly bumpy sticker of a pink-frosted cupcake with a cherry on its top. She proudly showed it to me saying, “Scratch it and then sniff it.”

Scraping my fingernail over the red cherry, I leaned down and sniffed. It smelled like a bowl of cherries! Grammie enjoyed looking at and sniffing Tammie’s latest sticker, too.

When I took Grammie home that evening, we started to talk about recipes. She had me get an old family cookbook to look at one. I found several of the pages in the book badly stained and a few damaged from having once been stuck together.

Grammie looked over my shoulder at the stains and commented, “Daddy turned a part of that book into a scratch and sniff cookbook.”

I laughed at her use of the scratch and sniff idea we’d introduced her to that day, but questioned, “When did Daddy ever cook?”

I couldn’t think of a single time in my childhood that I’d ever seen Daddy in the kitchen at the stove.

Mom said, “I was very sick with peritonitis after I had Agnes. We hired a nurse to take care of me, but there was a lot for her to do. She had to look after me, a new baby, a toddler and make meals. I suppose she just cooked the necessary meat, vegetables and potatoes. Daddy liked sweets, so he made a few pies and cakes during that time.”

I looked at the soiled cookbook page and imagined Daddy standing at the counter in the old house’s primitive kitchen. He was unfamiliar with cooking, so he probably checked the recipe instructions often. Operating with his usual quick movements, I pictured sugar, milk and vanilla splashing as he stirred the batter with abandon. I wondered if he proudly took the finished product into the bedroom to show Mom? That wouldn’t have surprised me.

Smiling, I rubbed a fifty-year-old stain and asked, “Do you think after all these years, we’d still be able to smell the vanilla?” We laughed.

My Mom had given me a small window-view of her life with Daddy when they were still young. Since it is rare for a child to look back in time at a small vignette of their parent’s lives, I felt she had given me a gift.

My memories of Niki and Tammie’s scratch and sniff stickers are forever so very sweetly intertwined with Grammie’s story about Daddy and his short stint as a cake baker.

Remembering the happy times when my children were small and excited about simple things like new stickers is fun.  It’s too bad we can’t be instantly consoled so easily as we grow older.

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