I loved touching his cheek. Ever since he was a child, Dragon had smooth, soft skin. When he and Hannah were little kids, I’d hold them close and nuzzle them, rubbing my nose to their nose, nuzzle them on their soft necks. I had read somewhere, and wanted to believe, that a mother is able to distinguish the odor of her own newborn baby from that of other newborns, both by the unique smell of her baby, and from somehow smelling herself on her offspring. That sense of smell, of being able to identify one another, is a primal bond between mother and child that transcends our modern sensibilities and that somehow always fascinated me: “I belong to you and you belong to me.”
So I would rub my nose on my babies and kiss them and tell them, “This is so that I can find you later.” I know they thought I was crazy or silly or both, but they humored me.
As he got older, when I would drive Dragon to water polo, I would glance over and admire his handsome profile, his chlorine-bleached water polo hair. I would reach out a hand and stroke his cheek, lean after losing the baby fat, but still soft and smooth. As our car crested the hill on Portola Parkway, going over the 241 toll road on our way back home, Dragon would reach over and turn on the radio. His music would fill the air: Sail by Awolnation or Riptide by Vance Joy. I’d stroke Dragon’s cheek and wonder at how big he was getting, already 5’ 10”, already a high school freshman.
I would wonder at how much I loved this boy, and how lucky I was to get to stroke his cheek.