Smells Like Christmas

Tapiola, Michigan Late 1960's/early 1970's

Tapiola, Michigan Late 1960’s/early 1970’s

Have you ever caught a whiff of something and suddenly a memory overwhelms you?  That happened to me yesterday while having lunch with friends.  There I was, hanging out at the Pizza Pub in North Branch, Minnesota, when a couple walked in and sat behind us. As they began to remove their snowmobile gear, my nose tingled at the aroma; ah, exhaust.

Next thing you know I’m transported back over the decades to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to a small town called Tapiola.  We’re there to visit family for Christmas.  I’m bundled head to toe in my one-piece snowsuit with a “chook” and scarf covering everything except my eyes.  Much like Randy in A Christmas Story, I am barely able to put my arms down from the swaddling.

Off we would go, my cousins and I, to the field between my grandma’s and my aunt’s and uncle’s house.  Armed with toboggans and sleds, we trudged through the super snowy hills to the top.  If you’re unfamiliar with a “Yooper” winter, let me just say they get a couple hundred inches of snow every winter, there’s no wondering if the white stuff is coming.

Laughing and trying to steer as we flew down the hills between the trees, I imagine we looked something like Chevy Chase on a greased saucer in the movie Christmas Vacation.  Oh there were plenty of saucer-tree collisions, and many a time someone landed in the creek (pronounced “crick”), but we laughed until our sides ached.  And if we were lucky, cousins Donny and Gary would be out on their snowmobiles to chauffer us to the top to do it all over again.  Soaked and/or frozen, we’d head back to grandma’s house for cocoa and cookies, wet snowsuits and accessories spread out to dry.

And that’s when it happened; the aroma of pizza wafted under my nose and transported me back to Minnesota.  Gone were the days of carefree giggling and wet “swampers” drying by the vent.  Gone, too, is my chauffer, Gary.  Although it makes me a bit melancholy, it is not a time for sadness.  I know that every time I smell a whiff of exhaust happy memories will wash over me.  And whether it’s pine, balsam, cedar, or Polaris it smells like Christmas to me.  Happy Holidays to all!







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