Oh the days of youth when you don't have a care in the world and you are always experimenting with new things. I can remember the first time I smoked a cigarette. My mom smoked and I thought it was fascinating. There was just something about putting a rolled up tube of tobacco in your mouth and setting it on fire. Watching her puff smoke out of her mouth made me think of magical dragons who wore cat eye glasses, had permed hair, and drank coffee.
My mom, her mom, and sisters would sit around the kitchen table smoking. They would flick their ashes into glass ash trays while the coffee cups clanked as they plopped them down on the chrome kitchenette. I would stare and with all my precociousness I would ask if I could have a cigarette. They would all say through the smoke, "No, you're not old enough!" What does old enough mean to a kid when ten years old felt ancient? I would be told to go play and I would retreat just far enough to keep watch on their vaporous gathering.
One day I decided I would try a cigarette. Carefully I pulled one out of my mom's pack and headed outdoors to light up. I knew if she caught me there would be hell to pay so I looked for something I could use to hide it from her. I looked down and saw an old skillet that was used as a feeding dish for our pet dog. I thought that would be sufficient to prevent mama from seeing me. I headed up the hill with my skillet, cigarette, and match in hand. Why I chose to smoke outdoors in full view of the house is a mystery. Maybe I was afraid of setting one of our outbuildings on fire if I secreted myself in one of them. I decided on my location at just the top of a hill. I lit my cigarette; raised my skillet shield and took a puff. My eyes watered as I coughed my way through my first smoke. I never thought of how ridiculous I looked holding a skillet next to my face with smoke billowing all around it. I was either smoking a cigarette or burning toast in that skillet positioned right next to my head. I began to feel a little ill from it so I lowered my iron buckler and smashed the burning cigarette until the flame was extinguished.
I don't know what cosmic force was at work that day that prevented my mom from looking out the window and catching me puffing away, but I was grateful for it. Many years later I confessed my cigarette secret at one of those tell all family gatherings. You know the type. The ones where you open up your Pandora's box of dumb to get a few laughs and rediscover we were all kids once.