Goodnight Bobo Bear

 I was walking Mia the other night. As she sniffed and shuffled around, I caught a whiff of cologne - a clean familiar tang. Walking by was a middle aged man, trousered and shirted, coming back from an evening out somewhere. His top button was undone and he looked so familiar. Till I realised he wasn't anyone I knew, but he reminded me of someone I knew.
For years, watching my parents get ready to go out for a party is something indelibly etched in my mind. We were usually in our nightclothes watching TV, sometimes being babysat by our help, and sometimes just on our own. My mom coiffing her hair a layer at a time; glossing her red lipstick; putting on her gold watch and always at the end bending her knees and carefully stepping on the back of her sari to ensure it fell neatly. My dad in the meantime would have cuffed and collared and aftershaved and polished and spritzed himself generously with cologne and then at the end he'd remove this ridiculous purple beanie he'd wear after taking a shower to help "set" his hair! And off they'd go in a whirl of crisply ironed trousers, perfectly set hair, vibrant silk and a heady mix of perfume. If we didn't have anyone babysitting us, they usually locked us from the outside, which probably doesn't sound very safe. But it was more to ensure they could get in once we fell asleep and didn't have to be stranded outside while we slept in a thunderstorms-can't-wake-us stupor like only children and the innocent can. 
We usually fell asleep at some point and sometimes we would hear the front door being unlocked late at night (was probably only 11!) to signal their return. And always a few minutes later, our bedroom door would open and they'd peek in to check if we were asleep. My dad would usually trot in and give us both a smooshy kiss with a "goodnight bobo bear" and we'd mumble "gwuhnitepa" back. And though we were never nervous or uncomfortable being left alone at night (anywhere they went was 5 minutes away!) that whiff of cologne and his silhouette against the light, always signalled that he was home, and we could sleep tight. It is to me a scent of comfort and warmth, a scent that years later looking at a stranger coming back from somewhere at night, brings back the memory of the clink of a door unlocking and a goodnight kiss.


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