December 11, 2008


In college I was a little more than a social smoker. I stopped smoking cigarettes when I started working with high school drop outs who needed to quit worse than I did. I didn't want to be like my eighth grade P.A.L. teacher who always harped on “the dangers of smoking” but smelled like a pack a day. I was also outside the stresses of University life, so I did not think much about it.

When I was a full-time student a year later I began to smoke a beautiful pipe that my boyfriend gave to me for Christmas. Dad really let me have it when he found out I was smoking a pipe. I was so ashamed that I stopped again.

Since then I smokes about once a year, usually with John or Lindsey. Baker knows I used to smoke and doesn't seem to mind too much when I have a drag.

I woke up this morning to one of those clear crisp days when you know it is December. I had a bit of a cough and a scratchy throat and the tea kettle was singing its mournful hymn and I wished I had a cigarette. Not just any cancer stick, but an American Spirit ... I even giggled thinking about it.

Soon I was reminded of all the times when I rolled my eyes at my friends who were smoking or coughed dramatically in the direction of strangers who I thought needed to quit. Then the one line from the last section of St Ephraim's three stanza prayer “grant me to see my own sins and not condemn my brother” floated into my head. Have I only been awake for 30 minutes and already messed up?

If I kept always a memory of the joy smoking provided me, I would not be so judgmental of folks who just cannot seem to quit. Should I be mindful of the litany of sins that I cannot seem to conquer I might be a bit more gracious to my brother man.



ViridianBill said...

Ah Rebekah, how true. I remember the immense pleasure that a pack of Marlboros afforded me as a young lad of about 12. Some of the "Big Boys" in the neighborhood would buy them for me, and I would climb a big tree at the edge of the woods near my neighborhood and puff away, hidden in the breezes and alone with my thoughts. I remember the rich taste, the wonderful aroma, the mild high of the nicotine. But, I also remember the fear of getting caught, and knowing that the consequence of that would be my father's belt (I had seen it before on my older brothers!) So, after a few months of this summer reverie, I quit, cold turkey. Now, I very occasionally puff a pipe, alone, outside on our bedroom deck, and experience very nearly the same sensations. I have a feeling that after one has developed the habit of smoking, the pleasure of it fades. So perhaps, like most things in life, the key to appreciation is found in the moderation--maybe even fasting/feasting--of the act which preserves its uniqueness.

Rebekah said...

Thanks Uncle Bill, yes, there is the need (at least for me) to continue the fasting/feasting discipline with this beloved "habit" of mine. Now that the evenings are cool and the sunsets are orange and purple it seems the perfect time for a smoke. Maybe we can share one together sometime