When I went to visit my Grandma and Grandpa Mantey a few weekends ago for Mother’s Day, I could smell my grandpa before I could see him. Impressive, considering that he was competing with gas emissions from a 100-head herd of Holstein dairy cows that call his farm home.
It was the cigar he was smoking, the familiar scent of burning tobacco and chemicals and vanilla. Hi, Grandpa.
Since I’ve known him, he’s always had some form of tobacco in his life. There’s a picture buried in my family albums somewhere of me as a two-year-old smoking from his pipe (let’s be honest, I probably just put my sticky toddler lips on the pipe and then ran away).
I didn’t glamorize tobacco as a child. DARE took care of scaring that out of me. But my Grandpa’s tobacco use was always this elusive adult thing to my siblings and me. We used to see if we could trick each other into drinking from Grandpa’s chew spit cup, which always seemed to be one of those little plastic kid cups that easily could have been filled with something like red pop and not a slimy smear of goo.
Hindsight: That was gross, and kids are weird.
As I sat on the farm stoop while Grandpa smoked his stogie this past Mother’s Day, I thought about how the mystery of cigars was gone to me now but their allure was not. Having passed most adult rites of passage — with the exception of having my own children to scat away from tricking their baby brother into a nicotine overdose — I now look at cigars as a way to occasionally kick back. They’re unhealthy and stinky, but puffing on a cigar is, to me, a rare indulgence, and every adult deserves one of those now and again.
When I got back to Columbus after my visit, I headed to House of Cigar in the Short North to buy two Montecristos (ain’t no fun to smoke alone!). I’m waiting for the right occasion to indulge, but in the meantime I have them sitting near a photo my grandma gave me the day of my visit. It’s an image of my grandparents on the farm in 1954, a few months before they got married. What’s that in Grandpa’s hand? A stick of tobacco, of course. I will forever associate cigar smells with him ... and smile.
∙ Objects of Desire is a biweekly column that explores items Columbus shoppers crave. Follow Jackie Mantey on Twitter at @Jackie_Mantey.