Middle-aged, working real jobs in offices, I sometimes found myself in the break room with female co-workers discussing childbirth. They looked at me, to get my take, but I could not contribute. I never became a mother. Conversations about labor pains made me feel like an outsider. A person whose disability it was impolite to notice.
Now past retirement age, the other day I waited in line at the grocery store behind a young mother. Her red-haired baby boy waved to me from his seat in the cart. My body leaned toward him, but not so much, I hoped, that anyone would notice. What was that scent? I covered my eyes for a round of peek-a-boo. He put his pudgy fist in front of his nose, then pulled it away, laughing. And then his mother snapped her purse shut and pushed the cart toward the doors, the red-haired boy singing ma ma ma––leaving me to inhale the emptiness left in his wake.
Forty years ago, the fragrance of baby powder was so tangible I could hold it in my arms. I swear I could even see it––white puffs of sweet aroma.
The cashier dragged my items across the scanner. “Morning, ma’am. Did you find everything you need?”