I think it’s safe to say that everyone has at least one comfort food. You know, that food you turn to when you have a bad case of the Mondays or when it’s rained for a week. Mine is mashed potatoes. I’ve cried many a virtual tear into heaping servings of warm mashed potatoes.

If the popularity of scented oils and candles are any indication, then folks have comfort odors as well. While I enjoy the smell of baked goods wafting through the house, I’m not sure I have a comfort odor. But I can report that my great-niece has one. Indeed, she enjoys smelling her pillow.

Make that her smelly pillow, which is what she calls it. In fact, she does not like for the pink pillow, which features Mickey and Minnie Mouse, to be washed. I’ve heard tell that she throws a fit when my niece wrests the pillow from her tiny grasp and tosses it into the washer. After all, what good is a smelly pillow if it’s clean?

My great-niece sleeps on the pillow at night, resting her little head on the Minnie side. Thus, she prefers to bury her nose into that side of the pillow. What’s more, sometimes when she’s playing, she’ll spring up and race to her room, announcing, “I’m going to smell my pillow.”

She loves visiting us and she’s been known to throw a fit when it’s time to leave. (Can you blame her?) To calm her on some occasions, her parents have explained that she can smell her pillow when she goes home. As you might expect, this psychology works.

Although I’m aware of the power scents have on our memories and emotions, I’ve wondered what she gets from sniffing a pillow that reeks of a sweaty child. To be more specific, that reeks of her sweaty head. I have no answer, but I can now report that her brother is also a fan of the pillow.

It appears, however, that he simply enjoys lying on the pillow. But he’s only 14 months old, so how do we know that for sure? How do we know that he wallows on it not because it’s comfy, but because it’s comforting? Could he prefer the pillow because it smells like his sister? Or is there something about this pillow that reassures the kids?

If so, then I might need to get me one of those comfort pillows. It would be less fattening than mashed potatoes.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.