A couple weekends ago, a horrific stink filled our house.
It started out as a very faint, very weird whiff of … something … that one of us would catch for just the briefest second.
“Ug,” my husband would say (almost always him, because I have a terrible sense of smell), “do you smell that?”
“No … wait. Yes! God, what IS that?”
We screened out the usual suspects. It wasn’t the trash, and it wasn’t the garbage disposal. It wasn’t even the dog, for once.
We noticed it was strongest in one corner of the kitchen, so we started sniffing around (literally).
We started to suspect our ancient microwave, the one I bought sometime in or just after college, which was currently clean but had a history of being a bit disgusting. My husband theorized that some condensation or some such had gotten into the microwave’s innards and caused mildew.
OK, maybe, I thought. It certainly wasn’t a traditional mildew smell, but who knows what microwave radiation can do to mutate mildew into something kind of ew in a different way? So we decided to get rid of the microwave, and that was that.
Except it wasn’t.
After a day or two of covering the smell with scented candles and air freshener and deluding ourselves that it was gone, we were forced to admit it wasn’t gone at all. The new microwave still had That Smell — vaguely maple syrup-y, just very weird.
So we formulated a new theory: something dead! The Internet supported that (and also proffered theories including mold infestation, bugs, and — I am serious — a giant hidden beehive), so up into the attic my husband went to try to find the culprit. He didn’t find any creatures, living or dead, but he did find a place where some ductwork had been jarred loose, forming a crack between pieces just about mouse-sized and, as it happened, right above the kitchen, where the smell was strongest. We’ve had a history of mice up there (though hadn’t heard any scampering around in at least a year), so, OK, it must be a dead mouse.
Once again we bombed the place with air fresheners and candles and did the only thing you can do when something is dead in an inaccessible part of your home: wait it out and fantasize about burning your house down and starting over.
But the smell didn’t go away, and one day while I was in the bathroom that adjoins the kitchen giving my daughter a bath, I thought of something. I thought about how she’s been prone to peeing on her potty seat lately, and how nasty that seat had been smelling when I wiped it down several times a day. It sure as heck didn’t smell like maple syrup at close range, but from farther away? Just maybe.
So we tossed the potty seat, cleaned the bathroom top to bottom, and started over with a new potty seat (sorry, Dora — you were replaced, much to my chagrin, with Disney princesses).
And here’s where my telling of the story differs from how my husband tells it. To me, the smell is gone. The mystery is solved, and we can all get on with our lives and be happy in the knowledge that the smell was just a temporarily very gross kid thing, not a more troubling, in-there-forever dead thing.
But when I told my husband that I was writing this blog post, and how I was ending it, he frowned. Standing in that same corner of the kitchen, the one where we have a new microwave, the one that shares a wall with the bathroom our kid uses, he sniffed the air and said “I think it’s still there, slightly.”
So the mystery deepens. Let’s hope the smell doesn’t.