It’s funny when you start going down memory lane with one’s childhood while conversing with those that were part of it. The things you remember, the things you forget, and the details that are often skewed with tidbits of truth, what I like to call “not-quites”. Yesterday, at dinner with my mom and sister, we got on the topic of cigarettes. My sister -three months in from giving up smoking and still going strong (Yay, Karla!)- was elaborating on her desire to still light up and the difficulty of kicking such a gripping addiction. What started as an honest side conversation with my mother turned into what any priest might call, in the spirit of the holy season, “true confessions sans absolution.”
Karla could easily have been pegged as the “black sheep” of our family. The one who beat up the bus driver’s boys, the one who snarled back at my dad, and the one who…smoked. Last night, as the tales and truths seemed to come forth about each of our experiences with smoking, Karla seemed to have forgotten the time she made me, her younger brother, smoke a cigarette for the first time.
It was a cold winter day and we were on the tail end of one of Colorado’s epic blizzards. Karla and I were outside, putzing around in the drifts of fresh snow when suddenly, out of her winter coat pocket, she pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights. Behind the largest snow drift in the front yard, just out of view from the family room window where the rest of the family was enjoying the warmth of the winter stove, I, flabergasted, exclaimed: “What are you doing? YOU SMOKE?” Karla, the cool cat with the big curly perm, looked at me with the eyes of Lucifer. “Yep. And you’re going to have one with me.” I realize now what she was up to. If I had one too, well, then, I wouldn’t dare tell on her. We’d both be in trouble. It was one of those moments where I just had to go with the flow, respect my older sister with the cool friends (albeit “stoners” as we referred to them back in the day) so that I could be, if only for a moment, cool like her. I remember the taste, the smell, the hacking…but what I remember most of all was being the boy in possession of a secret that seemed like a scandal waiting to unfold in our holy house of saints. Ha!
The way Karla and I remembered the story last night, some 30 odd years later, was classic. Of course, she had forgotten all about the smoking in the snowdrifts when we were younger. She had forgotten many of the details that I so CLEARLY remembered. As we reminisced of her smoking journey, it led to conversations about how Mom and Dad used to smoke (which led to a good laugh when Karla revealed a belief of hers that smoking is, indeed, hereditary!) I learned for the first time that my late father was a smoker well into his 40s–something I did not know.
As if wanting to shift the conversation’s focus from her, Karla, in true big-sister form, decided it’d be a good time to let Mom know that I had once been a closet smoker too. I don’t think much can surprise my mom these days, but I filled her in on how for many years I treasured my one or two evening cigarettes on the porch as a way to put an end to my day. (Karla’s fault, I’m sure.)
Next it was Mom’s turn. Caught up in our casual confessions in our little booth at the local eatery, Mom quietly ended our dinner with an admission of her own: earlier that day, while waiting to get her tire fixed, she broke her lenten promise to give up the game Free Cell. STOP THE PRESSES! MOM???!!!???
God bless her. We couldn’t help but chuckle.
I drove home remembering fondly not only the childhood memories, but now a new memory. I think I’ll pen it The Marlboro (Wo)Man and Lenten Confessions: 2015.
Peace be with you.