My parents sent me away to school for my last two high school years since we’d moved so often.
Smoking was forbidden. Smoking was cool. Shy and awkward as I was, smoking gave me confidence as we rode to Boston on the train for Saturday leaves.
When I went home to Maine, I’d disappear into the woods behind our house, sit on a bed of pine needles under a tree, open a book, and light a cigarette. I never smoked in front of my parents. They must have smelled it, but they never said anything.
In college, I lived in the smelly downstairs smoker as I spent the evening plowing through my homework with the other addicts.
Smoking was handy for blind dates that didn’t work. Near curfew, I’d light up a coffin nail as my date was deciding whether to lunge. After I stopped, I never figured out why any guy who didn’t smoke would date a girl who did. Still, a nonsmoker married me.
I didn’t give it up until I was 30, coughing and running a low-grade fever much of the time . “Chronic bronchitis,” my doctor said, “Every time you get this it will damage your lungs a little more and you will get it more easily the next time.”
I had four little children. Smoking would kill me. Addicted, I still sneaked into the bathroom with my pack of cigarettes.
But then I’d open the door to see my children seated in a semicircle before me.
“Mommy, you’re going to die,” they’d say.
That did it.
I’m so grateful to them.