I have only smelled this smell one time before, at least, that I am aware of. It was the summer after I graduated from college, and I was backpacking through Eastern Europe with two of my girlfriends. Obviously, we were on a tight budget, so we were not staying in the prettiest or classiest of joints. Plus, we were also in Eastern Europe in 1997, not too long after the fall of Communism and the rebuilding of nations was rapidly taking place, even so, the hotels and hostels hadn’t caught up yet.

We had to overnight it in a small town in Hungary, the name escapes me now, because we had missed our train, and it was pouring rain, and we were three girls travelling through a country most people only read or heard about. At the time, very few people spoke English, and we were American anomalies, especially since one of us was blond. The roads in Hungary are dark, twisted, narrow. They are lit by very old looking gas lamps, and configured with stones and pavers. Exactly what you would think of when you hear the words Grimm Brothers and fairy tales dating back from the 1800’s. It was cold and rainy…perfectly poetic. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a more romantic city in the sense that it was drenched in history and bohemian writers. Maybe Prague would be the closest in comparison, but even Prague has its own distinguished style of romance.

It was cold and dark and wet. Our backpacks weighted us down and since it was July, we only thought to bring a light parka and a pair of jeans and one sweatshirt, which we had now worn for at least five of the seven days we had been travelling. We just wanted to get inside somewhere, warm so we could relax and get dry again. The first place we spotted that looked affordable, we dashed into. The inn keeper hardly spoke English, but acknowledged there was a room available for the three of us. We had been taking turns, two sleeping in the bed, one on the floor. It was my turn to sleep on the floor. I really wouldn’t have minded, being the trooper that I am, except that when we entered the room, we were overwhelmed with the most pungent air you could ever imagine. I had never smelled anything like it before. It was truly disgusting. We couldn’t put our finger on it. The building was old, a little decrepit, so we figured it must be mold or age. But the smell never ceased. We never got used to it. I was in tears because I had to sleep on the floor, and I was so disgusted. I threatened to use my Gold American Express card my father had given me for emergencies to get my own room. But, the girls were not comfortable with me sleeping alone. They thought we should stick together, and I knew they were probably right. That was one of the worst sleeps in my life…of course, until I had babies. That smell never left my olfactory. Even though I never knew what it was, I would never forget that putrid scent.

Then it hit me this morning, when I was rushing my family out the door to attend my son’s piano recital. Ugh…what is that ghastly smell??? Thoughts of dirty diapers, vomit, rotted cheese, left over Greek food from my husband’s dinner the other night all raced through my mind. I still couldn’t place it, but it immediately brought me back to that hotel room in Hungary. My husband and I did a quick check of the garbage, the refrigerator, freezer…everything was working, garbage was empty. We couldn’t stand there for another minute to think about it, or we would be late. When we returned home, the smell, being stagnant while we were gone, had started to take over our living room and guest bathroom. I was gagging every time I walked past the area. The realtor called and asked if she could show our house. Fantastic! It smells delightful. I’m sure all these people will be able to think about cooking their next family meal in our kitchen that reeks of a dead mouse. Oh. My. God. It’s a dead mouse. The thought never occurred to me until at that moment. Ew. There is a dead mouse in my garage somewhere. Of course there is. I often tell my kids not to play in there as they could get lost forever in the black hole of the boxes and bins full of camping, hunting, kids stuff and who the hell knows what else we have shoved in there. The smell was so reminiscent of that hotel room, that had to have been what had caused it. Or who knows, it could have been something bigger, like a cat or raccoon. Gross. The thought it seriously grossing me out right now. Thank God that never crossed my mind because I would have taken the chance to sleep alone if I would have ever thought that was the case.

Frantically, we opened up all the windows, left the garage door open and shoved all kinds of air sanitizer in the bathroom and living room. I even stuck a box of good old Arm-n-Hammer Baking Soda right by the door in hopes it would quickly eat the odor. The realtor came with the family. I crossed my fingers and took a deep breath, hoping they were too amazed by the beauty of my home to notice anything else. When they left, I breathed a sigh of relief. Tomorrow, my husband has the grand honors of looking for the dead creature in our garage while I take the kids to swimming lessons. Gross.