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Tag Archives: smoking

a missing tile

DAK smoking
I never saw my mother smoke; she quit just before I was born. In this photo, taken late in her pregnancy, Dorothy holds what was perhaps one of her last cigarettes. She looks pensive and calm. She’s wearing polka dots.

I don’t know where the picture was taken, or who took it. I’ve never seen the actual photograph. What I have is a print on plain paper and it’s curious to think that someone else — who, I wonder — has or had the original. Who would have wanted it more than Dorothy herself?

There is so much we don’t know — tiles missing from the mosaic we assemble each morning into our world view. Still, we turn them into a picture, call it complete, think we know what we know. Until we find a missing tile.

I love polka dots.


cigarette drawing by DorothyThis week, in Albuquerque, we went to a casino. In addition to an assault of noise and lights, we were engulfed in cigarette smoke. In the U.S., it’s easy to forget that this used to be the norm: people smoking in offices and movie theaters, in restaurants and on airplanes.

My parents were both smokers. My dad quit in his 50s after he tore something coughing — but not on the first try. It took my mother saying that she bet he couldn’t quit to get him to stop for good. My mother smoked right through her pregnancy, but she quit when I was born. She said she didn’t want to pollute that sweet-baby smell with smoke. I know it couldn’t have been easy and I count it as a gift.

But it didn’t stop me from smoking, starting at about 11 or 12 with stale cigarettes cadged from the crystal box that my parents would put out for guests and continuing until I was 25. Every time I lit up someone was sure to say, “I didn’t know you smoked.”

One day I caught sight of myself in the mirror, cigarette in hand, and was shocked at how wrong it looked. So I quit. Finished. Done. But even now, after all this time, and not ever being a heavy smoker, I sometimes wake up in the morning and realize I was contentedly smoking in my dream.

The casino visit feels like an inoculation — a booster shot — against the dark temptations of such dreams.
. . . . .
drawing by Dorothy, circa 1941


ashtrayIn honor of yesterday’s (for many reasons) milestone election in which the voters of Washington state strongly passed Initiative Measure No. 502 to legalize marijuana, this…

I’m guessing my mother was in her late 70s when she told me one day that she wanted to smoke pot. With me. Ever the dutiful daughter, I made the necessary arrangements, and on the appointed evening we sat down on the couch in their living room with our glasses of water, our matches and one of their long-unused ashtrays. After a few denials — “I don’t feel anything” — Dorothy started giggling, and of course I started giggling, and for some time we collapsed into silliness, telling stories, reminding each other of funny things that had happened years — or moments — earlier.

My father, who would not partake, sat in his usual chair across the room, a book in his lap, pretending to read, trying to look the part of impartial witness. But he had that twinkle in his eye and a little smile, and a few times he let the pleasure of the moment draw him into full-on laughter.

Once was enough for Dorothy, but it remains a little jewel in my memories of her, and them.