My friend EVF at Penny Jar has been working on memoir, particularly during NaNoWriMo (which she won, by the way). And during that she has often posted and tweeted about sensory memories, like memories brought on by certain smells – your favorite perfume as a teenager, your mothers perfume, your dad’s pipe tobacco, whatever. Anyway, on Facebook this week she linked to a past post on her blog but in leading into it she brought up the old cigarette commercial with the tag line “you’ve come a long way baby”.

Funny, talk about sensory memories; that tag line brought on a flood of memories for me. What were those cigarettes, Virginia Slims (the women’s cigarettes, a comedian once asked if that meant they had little breasts on them)? I used to smoke Virginia Slims, that was ages ago. Mom smoked them too. We shared sometimes. Really long, skinny cigarettes.

That was in the days after her heart attack and bypass surgery when she wasn’t supposed to smoke but she did, sometimes, hiding like a teenager to sneak a puff here and a puff there. When I would come to visit we would go to the grocery store together and she would bum a cigarette from me. Forget that I was enabling her unhealthy habit and she mine.

It felt like payback for all the cigarettes I had stolen from her as a teenager. Back in the day when we still didn't believe that smoking would actually make us die. When I couldn’t buy cigarettes and wanted to look cool smoking. In those days she smoked Kent 100’s. She would light one, then set it in the ashtray where it would burn away and before it was gone, she would forget and light another.

When I couldn’t find her pack of Kent’s there was often in the ashtray cigarettes she had only half smoked before stubbing them out, I would steal the butts to light up secretly. I know, sounds gross now but as a kid wanting to smoke because it was soooo cool …

I quit smoking after mom died, of lung cancer. Now I can’t imagine except the memory of the shared experience with mom, our secret.

This post was also posted at Beginning a Life at 50

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Comment by Isabelle Gregson on March 5, 2011 at 6:48am
Hey Julie, That's such a moving post, thank you for sharing. Beautifully written. It would make a beautiful short story...


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