Humans have a rich history with fire, though a more checkered relationship with smoking.
The Marlboro Man was larger than life, as were jingles related to smoking culture. And even though both of my parents were in the medical field, it was in the hospital where cigarettes were handed out “to calm the nerves.”
My mother smoked for most of her adult life, and never stopped puffing until she forgot about it due to the ravages of dementia.
My father was a cigar and pipe guy. I vividly remember ashes blowing in my face when I was a backseat passenger in the car, whether the windows were down, or when we rode in his convertible.
Acquaintances much younger than I are shocked to hear me tell these stories, but more appalled still to hear that I started smoking very young, but stopped by the time I was 21.
Back then, schools reacted to the imminent danger of young people playing with fire by designating smoking areas. Our “smoker” was near our dining room, because at meal time, boarders and day students alike were free to do as they wished.
Tobacco was such a strong thread in our lives that my mother named her beautiful blue parakeet Smoky. She acquired this feathered friend to keep her company, since her pregnancy with me forced her out of the workplace, as was the protocol in those days.
We grew up with Smoky.
Smoky flew loose in our house; followed us up into the attic; decorated lamp shades where he’d perch to observe us; and drank our parents’ OJ in the morning and their martinis at night.
He bathed under the faucet in our cupped hands, and delighted us daily with the phrases my mother had taught him.
In our innocence, we thought Smoky would live forever.
And though cigarettes and forest fires have been shown to have brutal consequences, memories of our cherished Smoky fill our hearts with love. ©