Anna and I made it home and both of us did a quick wardrobe change and freshened up a bit to reduce the chances that our mother would detect smoke on us. I made my way downstairs and into the kitchen to make the sangria.
“Oh hi, Mel. You making the punch?” my mother asked while she put a veggie platter and cheese, meat and cracker platter on the island.
“Yes, and then I’m yours. I can help you with whatever.” I volunteered. I located the punch dish and put it on the counter.
“Four bottles of wine eh?” My mom commented.
“That is what the recipe called for,” I stated, not wanting to say too much. “If there are left overs we can drink it tomorrow.”
“I guess so, it just seems like a lot.”she replied.
“Do you think I should half the recipe? It makes 20 servings. That is 5 drinks each, if you let Anna have some. I figured that even if we don’t have 5 drinks each it was better to have too much than no enough.”
“Good point, Mel. I trust you. Just follow the recipe.” She said turning to work on something else for dinner.
The words ‘I trust you’ rang through my head as I poured the four bottles of moscato into the bowl, followed by a cup of peach schnapps, a cup of apricot brandy, a bottle of lime Perrier water and a bunch of frozen fruit, strawberries, mango, peaches and pineapple. It looked delicious, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty. She shouldn’t trust me.
Dinner was ready about two hours after this and it was delicious as usual. My mom had out done herself again. By this point, most of us had had a couple of glasses of the sangria. It was delicious but deadly. I could already feel the effects, which meant that my craving for an after dinner cigarette was that much stronger. I could tell mom would need a few more before being pliable enough to suggest something as abhorrent as smoking. My dad invited me to help him bring out the trash, I decided since it could be awhile before my was ready that I should go with him seeing as it might be my last chance before breaking it to her. He didn’t waste any time and passed me a cigarette. We both power smoked silently, purposefully.
My dad put his cigarette out just after I did and ask, “Are you ready?” I said yes. I showed him the pack of menthol super slims I had picked up.
“I don’t think mom is ready yet.” I noted, “Perhaps you can nudge me when you think she might be open to this. I might be too drunk to notice.”
“Will do. Ok, we should get back in there before she suspects something.”
We walked back to the house together. My mom didn’t scrunch her nose like she normally did when Dad came back from smoking. He went up to her and kissed her on the lips. She did not recoil as she sometimes did when Dad kissed her after smoking. Gee, Dad was right, this might just work.
We played a game called Taboo, Anna and Dad were a team and Mom and I were a team. Every time someone said one of the words on the card, they drank. As a group, we were getting progressively worse, although mom had insisted Anna switch to non-alcoholic drinks about half-way through the game, so naturally Anna and Dad won.
After we finished playing, we sat around the fire, chatting. My Dad nudged me as he went off to have another smoke. Apparently he thought the time was right.
“Dad’s going for a smoke, ” I remarked after he left the room, “I gather you know he started again.”
“Yeah. I hate it when he smokes.” She replied, then she looked down and sighed, “I give him a harder time about it than I should.”
“Why do you give him such a hard time? I know smoking is bad, but he is adult. He has a right to choose whether to smoke or not.” I asked quietly.
“Part of it is protective, I want him to live for as long as possible and I worry about his health. Part of it is selfish, I feel as though, if I’m not allowed to smoke, nobody should be.”
Anna was just sitting quietly listening. I just nodded and let it be silent for a bit.
“Not allowed to smoke? You are an adult. Nobody is stopping you from smoking except for you. I thought you didn’t like smoke. It sounds like you want to but are stopping yourself for some reason.”
“I used to love smoking. I haven’t smoked since I got pregnant with you. I guess I’m the only one that is stopping me from smoking and I’m not even sure why anymore. For a long time there, I didn’t want to set a bad example for you and Anna. Only bad moms smoke, I told myself. But Anna smoked anyway, I guess you didn’t so there is that. I guess I’ve given him such a hard time over the years that it was almost like admitting defeat on this front if I admitted to your dad that a small part of me might want to try smoking again.” She took another sip of her drink.
“I’m sure he would be relieved to know that. Plus, Anna and I are grown-up, or at least pretty close. We are going smoke or not smoke regardless of what you do with your life.”
“I know.” She sighed and almost looked defeated.
“Also, I think you should know. I’ve been experimenting with smoking at university. I tried it even though you didn’t smoke. I guess I’m not so different from Dad or Anna. I really like it. I brought some and with or without you, I am going out for one right now. Would you like to join me? And before you answer, I want you to think about what you want to do not what you should do. You’ve been doing what you should for years. It is time for you to do what you want to do.” I held her gaze. I wanted to seem confident even though I was likely going to break down into tears if she chastised me about smoking.
She just looked at me, with an expression of awe and surprise washing over her face. Sh could only choke out two words, “You smoke?” She held my gaze back.
“Oh Mel, not you too?”
“Yeah, I guess I’m not immune to the pleasure and perils of nicotine. I like it and I’m probably addicted, I smoke about 5 to 6 per day right now. I’ve only had three today so, I was kind of hoping you’d take me up on my offer.” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my sister disappear upstairs to her room, probably to take advantage of the smoking time. I could fill her in when we got back.
“Would it be awkward if I just came and watched? I can’t believe you smoke, not my Mel. I’m on the fence about actually joining you.” She said, looking at me hesitantly.
“Uh I guess you can come watch me.”I said sheepishly. I got up and headed to the back door, where I knew my father did most of my smoking. I had the B&H Menthol Superslims and a lighter in my hoodie pocket. I was half expecting my mom to stay seated but she was on my heels. I held the door open for her. She was silent. She lacked her normal careful expression, she looked relaxed the opposite of how I felt inside. This would change everything. I guess it already had. She knows, I told myself, plus it is going to feel really good. I was happy in that moment that I had unwrapped the box already. Also interesting I chose to buy the same cigarettes I bought for my first pack to share with my mom as her possible first smoke in a long time, I thought to myself as I freed one of the unnaturally skinny cigarettes from the pack and put it into my mouth. One flick of the lighter and it was lit. I puffed out the first mouthful of smoke without inhaling. I closed my eyes and took a long drag, inhaled deeply, held for a few second and tipped my head back to exhale upwards away from my mom.
I opened my eyes to see my mom staring at me. I couldn’t tell if she looked sad, disappointed, surprised, but she said nothing. I took another drag, inhaled, exhales and still she stared. We continued this staring contest for about 4 drags when I finally broke the silence, “Well say something! I know this can’t be easy to watch, you must be disappointed or mad or something… ”
“I’m not angry,” she said calmly and smiled, “You look so determined when you smoke and at the same time you seem to really enjoy it. You remind me of me. You father often said that we are a lot alike.”
“I guess we are, Mom. I’ve often cared too much about what people think about me. Smoking has been a departure from that. It has been freeing in some ways. You know Jane, mom. I saw her at the mall today. Well I guess you could say she saw me smoking. A month and a half ago, I would have died to have Jane see me smoke. I didn’t care that she knows now. I guess I figure if she is true friend, she won’t care.”I took another long drag, the menthol was a nice change.
“Interesting, I can relate. For years I haven’t smoked because I’m terrified about what people would think of me. That is why. I acted like a bitch toward your Dad because I really wanted to smoke with him, but I couldn’t or rather I told myself I couldn’t.”
“Do you want a drag? A cigarette?” I offered both the cigarette and the pack. She went for the cigarette. OMG Dad’s plan is working and I didn’t really have to do anything. I don’t feel bad because she wanted this all along, I thought to myself.
There it was something I never thought I would see, my mom taking a drag from my cigarette. It was small, tentative but she inhaled it no problem.
“What is with those cigarettes? They are so skinny! It was hard to get smoke out of them.” She laughed, “At least they are menthol. Menthol is my favourite.”
“They are pretty skinny but you get used to dragging off of them. I don’t smoke these all the time, but they are a nice occasional cigarette,” I smiled and took another drag, “Are you sure you don’t want your own?”
She looked at me for a second before she said, “What the heck, give me one of those!” I passed her the pack and she took one out and lit up as though she had been smoking her whole life. It was weird to watch my militant anti-smoking mother smoking. Somewhat disconcerting but also nice. Dad appeared seemingly out of nowhere and joined us on the deck. He smiled at the sight of his wife with a cigarette in her hand, but said nothing. I assumed that he didn’t want to ruin it. She met his gaze, looking somewhat defeated and just shrugged and smiled. At that moment, no matter what happened moving forward, whether my mother chose to smoke going forward, I could tell she wasn’t going to give Dad a hard time anymore.
She smoked about half the cigarette before saying, “I’m done, do you want to finish it?”
I was done mine at this point so I said, “Sure, I’ll finish it for you.” After I finished the cigarette, we all headed inside. Anna sitting waiting on the couch, smiling. I can only assume she was able to hear everything from her rooftop spot.
“So what did you think, mom?” I asked, interested in how my mom felt after her first time smoking in many, many years.
“It reminded me of what I loved about smoking. I don’t know if it is something I want to do all the time. I’m going to stop giving Dad a hard time about it. You can tell me where you are actually going now. I still don’t want you to smoke in the house, but if you open the garage door, you can smoke in there in the winter. I hope you don’t smoke too much, Mel. The mom in me, worries about your health.”
“I was terrified to tell you. I almost wasn’t going to, but my boyfriend said that it will be harder to tell you the longer I wait.”
“Wait boyfriend, I don’t think you mentioned a boy…” My mom trailed off.
“I didn’t. I was so pre-occupied with telling you about my smoking, I forgot to tell you about Drew. We’ve been dating almost since school started. I really like him.”
Dad stiffened up a bit, “Uh so when do we get to meet this…Drew.” He looked more concerned about the boyfriend than he had about the smoking.
“I was thinking he could come visit at Christmas, should we still be together…”I trailed off this time.
“It is a bit soon but he is welcome to come visit at Christmas should you still be together.” Mom reassured me.
Anna had been silent this whole time. I looked at her and I think while she was happy for me, she was also slightly disappointed that our mother hadn’t given her as hard a time as she did her. It was my turn to do something for her.
“So I know Anna is still not 18 yet, but I think you should let her smoke if she wants to, Mom. I don’t mean buy her cigarettes and you don’t even have to openly approve to your friends, but she shouldn’t have to sneak around here at the house.” Anna glared at me and I looked back, as if to say sorry just trying to help.
“I thought you quit, Anna?” Mom asked, interested in the answer. Anna just rolled her eyes and sighed.
Dad cut in, and gave Mom a knowing look “Did you really think she’d quit because you told her to?”
“But I haven’t smelled it on her, her grades are up and we are getting along…” Mom trailed off.
“I hide it well. I don’t smoke much. I’m probably not addicted, like Mel, but I like it and I’m not going to stop, even if at the end of this conversation you forbid me.” Anna finally spoke.
“Ok, I hesitate to give you permission, but you don’t have to sneak around anymore. I’m not buying you cigarettes and if your Dad does, he better not tell me about because I want plausible deniability,” She smiled at Anna and then looked to Dad and then to me, “But this doesn’t mean that I like that any of you smoke, but just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean I have to make your lives miserable and truth be told I probably hate it a lot less than I have been letting on. Like the opposite. But shhhhhh don’t tell anyone…I still don’t know what I am going to do about that.”
And with that we had a cheesy family group hug and went to bed. Anna hugged me again upstairs and whispered, “Thank you,” in my ear. The plan worked as well as any of us could have expected. I slept better and more deeply than I had in awhile. It felt good coming clean to my mother.