A freshly cut Christmas tree. A roasted turkey. That office supply smell Scotch tape leaves on your fingers when you're wrapping presents. They're all scents that remind me of the holidays.
I've got another one for the list. Lysol.
With my folks in town, our household has grown to six. That means six people are bringing home germs at the end of the day, like awful little invisible souvenirs from department stores, work and visits with loved ones.
We're touching nasty restaurant menus and cruddy shopping cart handles and kissing cheeks of family and friends who have been on germ tours of their own.
Getting sick is almost inevitable, no matter how many vitamins you ingest or how much you avoid putting your sanitized hands in your eyes, nose or mouth.
Last week, my mom and husband both were sick. Like, nasty sick that involved buckets and having to cancel our New Year's Eve party. Like a good wife, I woke up my husband a minute before midnight, so we could ring in 2013 together.
"Do you want to do the countdown?" I asked.
"Noooo," he moaned.
"Well, we are. So sit up," I said, pulling his hands. "Five, four, three, two, one. Happy new year!"
We made it to midnight, I let go of his hands and he fell back into his sick person slumber.
In between taking temperatures and refilling glasses of water for my patients, I was texting with my friend Heather, who is a nurse. Among her advice was, "Lysol everything."
I wiped down every drawer handle and door knob they may have touched, every remote control and every light switch. And then I did it all over again, just to be safe.
But the one thing I couldn't get rid of was the question that came from concerned loved ones: "What is it?" As in, "What is the name of the thing causing the sickness?"
I don't know. I never know. If I knew, I'd be a doctor and earning five times my salary.
My answer was, "We don't know if it's the flu or a stomach bug or food poisoning—you know, that steak looked iffy—or what." And then I listed every nasty symptom, so they could reach their own diagnosis.
They're feeling better these days, and, although I've been feeling a little headache-y and watery-eyed, I think I managed to escape the sickness they endured.
Thank God for Lysol.
Vanessa Renderman covers health care for The Times. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.