They say smells take you back to your childhood…
Ah, freshly-cut pine trees, cookies baking, cinnamon candles…Nothing smells like Christmas quite like these comforting smells.
Except the smell of exhaust from a bus. That too reminds me of Christmas.
When I was a kid, my mother and I flew to Missouri to visit my Grandparents for Christmas. We arrived during a blizzard, and it became too icy to land. All inbound planes were detoured to alternate cities. We landed miles and miles away from my Grandparents’ home.
I remember an all-night trip on a Greyhound bus. As we stashed our luggage underneath the bus and boarded, the black fumes mixed with the frigid night air, enveloped me, making my throat sting. The engine was revving, ready for the journey ahead. Nestled on the velveteen chair next to my mother, I was blanketed under my coat, with my forehead pressed against the cold window. I stared into the blue-lit darkness, mesmerized by the snowflakes. The hum of the engine and the blasting heat lulled me to sleep.
We made a stop at 2:00 a.m., at a 24-hour diner, where riders ordered burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, coffee, and pie. Then back on the bus where the journey continued. We chugged down the highway at snail speed.
We arrived at our destination mid-morning. Groggy, my mother led me to into the Greyhound terminal, where we were greeted again by fumes amidst the brisk air. And welcomed by my Grandparents and their big, comforting hugs and smiles. I was so happy to see them! The blizzard had passed, leaving a white winter wonderland. We crunched on the icy, snow roads with chained tires.
Finally arriving at their home, I breathed freshly-cut pine trees, cookies baking, and cinnamon candles.
My Grandparents are now long gone. But the smells–including the bus exhaust–take me back. Back to my childhood.