My mom had a symbiotic relationship with cigarettes.
She was a product of the Golden Age of Hollywood, a time when star-crossed lovers proclaimed their undying devotion while blowing smoke in each other’s face–thus sealing their fate that one day, they would die together. (Of lung cancer.)
She was also a product of a home where her parents would unwind after a long day by sitting across from one another at the kitchen table. Her father would strike a match, light her mother’s Lucky Strike, and then his own, and my mom would watch as the smoke from their cigarettes twirled in twin plumes, twisting together in the glow of after dinner peace. These were sacred moments of fleeting stillness– a way of being that transcended the pressures of work and raising children, of keeping house and cooking dinner. And as soon as the last ember fell from their Lucky Strikes, the moment would end.
Until the next.
(They kept the peace living cigarette to cigarette.)
So, it’s little wonder that my mom started smoking on a chilly night in October when the stress of midterm exams weighed down on her.
“Just one…” she said to her best friend as they sat on the steps outside Kingsolving Dormitory at the University of Texas. She coughed. She wheezed. She almost threw up. But she kept going.