Bananas and linoleum

For some reason that I may never understand, I have a terrible sense of smell. Pretty much always have. And it's only gotten worse since I crash-landed on an icy sidewalk and concussed my poor "Sarah Bellum" two winters ago. On the bright side, a lack of smell can come in pretty handy (ie, picking up doggie deposits and such).

But there are 3 times in my life when my sense of smell roared to life. Ladies, you probably know what I'm about to say. My ability to smell rivaled any perfume tester's -- when I was pregnant.

On our 30th anniversary last week, Mr. B and I were reminiscing about this oddity (my ability to smell things, not being pregnant, although that is a rather odd state of being when you really think about it, but I'll leave that tale alone for now).

Six months into our marriage, I was a news reporter for the Houston Chronicle, covering a 4-county beat. Mr. B, much to his chagrin, had to drive 75 mile each way to his place of work on the outskirts of of Houston, because one of the conditions of taking my job was that I needed to be a resident in my beat. We settled in a little town in the Texas hill country called Brenham, home to some very happy cows.

One night, after making his 75-mile trek home, Mr. B. prepared dinner. He's always liked to cook, and on this particular evening he made kung pao chicken. And egg rolls. With peanut butter inside. I found the addition of peanut butter a bit peculiar, but, figuring I was lucky to have a husband who liked to cook, I did not make any remarks.

Another thing Mr. B. liked was his aquarium. I take that back. He LOVED his fishies, and he purchased brine shimp (aka "sea monkeys") for them as a special treat, which he kept in the freezer. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The morning after (hint hint) the Chinese dinner, I opened the fridge to grab something for breakfast.  I took one look at the leftovers, the gelatinous kung pao chicken and the (YUCK) peanut butter egg rolls. And before you could say, "home of Blue Bell Ice Cream," I experienced (hmmmm . . . how to put this delicately) a tsunami of nausea engulfing me.

So much for breakfast.

The next day, I began to detect a very strange odor that I can only describe as the combination of linoleum and bananas. And every time I opened the fridge, same thing. Linoleum and bananas. Clever girl that I was, I checked my calendar and realized that something was amiss, or more precisely, something was missing.

Really, I thought? But we've been so careful. Just to be on the safe side, I made an appointment with the doctor. Mr. B came with me, I gave the nurses a little sample in their plastic container (why are they clear?) for proof positive, had an exam, and I received the happy tidings. I left the exam room in shock. Neither of us could say much as we drove away from the clinic, because, yes, I was very very very much pregnant.

And I could smell things. Terrible things. Horrific things. Things other people could not detect in the slightest.

We went home, and Mr B, as he is fond of doing when life feels out of control (and it was feeling so that day) went to the fridge and opened the door to look for a snack. Again the tsunami rolled in, chasing me all the way to the ladies' room.

After wiping my brow with a damp cloth, I stared at my pale face in the mirror and I made an important decision: The fridge door was was simply going to have to stay shut.

And so I made Mr. B promise that he would never never never ever open it again until Baby B arrived or the roiling seas settled. So for the the next few months, we stored perishables in an igloo cooler. (I'll bet there are stranger things pregnant women have requested, but, yes, this was way weird -- and absolutely essential if I was going to hold down food for the next 8 months or so, or until the roiling seas settled.)

About 3 months later, when I was just beginning to experience a morning here or there of freedom on the high seas, I leaned over the sink in the ladies room and applied some color to my cheeks. Now mind you, I was standing in a location that was as far away from the fridge as a person could get in our home.

All of a sudden, completely without warning, it hit. The smell, bananas + linoleum, the tsunami, the panting, the knees on the cold tiles, the wet cloth applied to my face. The profanity. I screamed a profanity that is very unlike me to scream. YOU b-----d!!!!! I shouted in a hoarse voice. You promised me!!!! You PROMISED me!!!

As is turns out, Mr. B had eked the freezer door open a smidgen to sneak out some brine shrimp for his fishies for whom he was feeling very sorry. How big could that be? An inch, maybe two? But no sooner had he done so, when he was assaulted by the faraway rantings of a hysterical, out-of-her-ever-loving mind, pregnant woman. His bride. Me.

He apologized profusely, telling me he was sure there was no way I'd be able to tell he'd opened the freezer compartment because he'd done it so quickly. And he was shocked at the speed between Point A (opening the fridge) and Point B (the profanity). Milliseconds. Maybe shorter. Seriously, how fast can odors travel? I still wonder if they set some kind of record that day.

The fridge was not, I guarantee you, opened again for months. At least not until the 2 friends who came to help us move back to Houston were pressed into action cramming the remaining half of our belongings into boxes, loading them into a van, driving them 75 miles, then unloading the unmarked boxes into our new apartment wherever they could find a place.

Because in the oh-so-familiar ladies' room, on the day of the move, I experienced a new sensation, which was not a tsunami, but rather very convincing evidence that our EarthDoctorSon would soon be making an appearance.

I came home 5 days later with the squirmy bundle to an apartment that looked like it had exploded with boxes. (But that's yet another story.)

The shiny new fridge door could be opened, a new life had begun, and I would not smell linoleum and bananas for another 18 months.

Truly, a blessing!

Image 1 from For the Love of Perfume blog, Aug 22, 2008 post, "Only the pregnant nose knows"
Image 2 from mainevelophile
Image 2 from


steven said…
kathleen what a story/stories!! i had no idea about the pregnant / refined sense of smell connection. thought i knew most of that stuff having studied it with care to ensure there were no "incidents". i must have skipped that page!! steven
Gail said…
What a fascinating story.

My down fall in this condition was coffee, Wild Country Aftershave, and Joy Dishwashing liquid.
Kathleen said…
Steven: see Gail's offenders above! So so weird!!!

Gail: I could not eat chicken for the rest of the pregnancy, Third pregnancy it was iced tea. (Iced tea???) I"ve yet to read a scientifically solid explanation of this phenomena!
Barb said…
I am sitting here wondering about that smell of linoleum and bananas. I'm wondering: good or bad smell? For you, it was obviously wrenching. Glad it could end happily with the birth of a son.
Kathleen said…
Hi Barb: Imagine sickeningly sweet, kinda moldy, pungent, and utterly overwhelming. Smelling it 3 times in my life was plenty for me, though I always wanted a 4th child. I keep a revolving door open for whoever shows up as child #4. And they do show up. And I do love them. And then they move on, but never the memory of them.
Joanna said…
I enjoyed your story greatly Kathleen. With me it was colour. There were certain colours that I just couldn't be around when I was pregnant. Turquoise and mauve, which I've always felt fine about turned into demons that would make me feel extremely nauseous. I had to take down weavings and cover my couch with a white sheet to make it through. Love the photo of your little boy.
Finding Pam said…
What a story! I had to change my toothpaste because it made me sick. I remember my MIL saying it was all in my head as I threw up out the car window. I can't believed you lived in Texas and Brenham. How did you get to the north?
Kathleen said…
Joanna: Now that's a first--color! That's fascinating. Almost like synesthesia (which I happen to consider a remarkable gift!).
Kathleen said…
Finding Pam: toothpaste, eh? Isn't it fascinating? I wish I understood the science behind this phenomena. Was your MIL finally convinced "it" was not in your head? I was born in Houston. Sometimes I'm Texas, sometimes I'm not. Would you believe hubby and I picked Minnesota to move to? Best decision we made. I'll have to tell the story sometime!
Rudee said…
It was always lunchmeat that brought me to my knees. Specifically, a diabolical lunchmeat otherwise known as football loaf. Blech. Bologna was little better and salami was a no-no for months--nine to be exact.

Bananas didn't bother me and I don't think I could tell you what linoleum smells like.

Great story, Kathleen!
Derrick said…
How grateful I am not to suffer from this phenomenon! I wonder how easy you would find it to live without opening the refrigerator nowadays?!
Hilary said…
Oh I can so relate. My nemesis odors were coffee, ginger ale (which I swear smelled just like sickeningly sweet blueberries) and the otherwise innocuous odor of the oven heating up.

My poor ex had to grab his coffee on the way to work because I couldn't stand the smell of the coffee maker in use. I would have to turn the oven on and then go out of the house for the ten minutes or so that it took to preheat, come in to put the meal in the oven (while holding my breath) and then leave again until the new cooking smells took over. I can't imagine how miserable you'd be to have your fridge assault you that way.

My last (of two) pregnancies ended exactly 20 years ago today. We're going out to celebrate his birthday tonight. I won't be drinking ginger ale. ;)
Janie said…
Funny reaction to those refrigerator smells! I remember the smell of coffee made me sick when I was pregnant, and any strong food odor would cause an unpredictable nausea reaction.
Suldog said…
Intriguing and entertaining story. Aside from the olfactory being so sensitive, did you divine just what exactly WAS the smell? Was it the brine shrimp? Or something else?
Erin Davis said…
You've brought back some powerfully pregnant and sensory memories of my own. The idea of not opening the fridge until the baby is born just cracked me up. Thanks for the read, Kathleen!
Oh, that is so funny!! Hormones are powerful little demons! I still feel sorry for my patients from my pregnancy days. I dry heaved through the entire 9 months. "Here's your breakfast tray, sir..."
Nessa said…
That's a fascinating preggers story. Hormones sure do strange things.

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