A friend of mine jogged my memory one morning when she mentioned something about how her folks used to smoke when they were out driving.
“Windows rolled up, mind you, and I would always get carsick!”
I laughed because all my folks had to do was mention “getting in the car” and my knees would go weak and I’d break out in a cold sweat.
Those two chimney stacks we called “Mom” and “Dad” could hardly wait to put that pop-out cigarette lighter to the end of a Chesterfield.
We’d barely be down the driveway when he’d reach into his shirt pocket and flip out two butts, one for each of them.
If we knew we were gonna be in the car for more than an hour, like say, driving to downtown Savannah for shopping, we knew we had to have the windows down.
They didn’t complain about it much, but if it was raining, and you know what Georgia is like, it rains every 30 seconds most of the time, we’d have to ride with the windows just barely cracked.
You see those dogs who stick their heads out the windows, happily lapping up the breeze? That was me on a ride in the car, if my head wasn’t just laid up on the window sill while my face turned green.
The folks would often encourage me to sit up front, thinking that it was sitting in the back that was causing my distress.
Horror upon horror.
Sit up there, scrunched in between those two who puffed away like a choo choo train while the ashtray filled up faster than a kiddie pool on a hot summer day?
“No, that’s OK, I’ll just sit by the window.”
Little brother usually tucked himself up there between him, loving that cozy feeling and getting little treats that they had tucked away. A butterscotch here, piece of gum there ... back then a pack of Wrigley’s only had 5 sticks, so you know ... if you got a whole piece you were king.
It wasn’t until I got much older that I realized how being the actual “driver” of the car could suffuse any bouts of being car sick.
If my dad had to ride as the passenger, which he often did as he got older, he’d start turning puce the minute the engine turned over.
“What the heck, Dad? You used to drive and smoke! How did you ever manage?”
“I could keep my eyes on the road ... pull over...” and out he’d go, letting the car support his frame while he got his bearings.
So it was a genetic thing after all.
Part of the problem with them smoking was that you could always see the smoke hanging around the living room when you came in from being outside.
That never fazed me until I became a teenager and people asked me if I smoked.
And then I realized why.
My hair and clothes smelled of smoke.
I could shower three times a day and wash my clothes on a daily basis, which we all often did, but that didn’t stop the smoke smell.
Add to that having Drunk Unk hang out and live with them for 25 years and you’ve got some major smoky funk goin’ on.
It wasn’t until the Chesterfield Kings had some major health problems that they gave it up all together.
That didn’t stop Drunk Unk, though. He smoked anyway, even though the doctor had asked him not to do it around my mother.
Having given up on the ciggies, though, led to them having other crutches.
My mother’s was her addiction to Tic Tacs. Not just any Tic Tacs, but the minty white ones. You could hear her a mile away with that Tic Tac box.
ShushShush. That’s the sound it would make as she tipped it to get one out, then tipped it back shut.
Pops became obsessed with candy.
Mary Janes. Ever had a Mary Jane after its been sitting in a coat pocket for five years?
Don’t do it for the sake of your teeth. An old Mary Jane will pull out any tooth or filling willing to give way.
He had a laundry basket that he would “hide” under some ironing.
The only reason the Brach’s candy company stayed in business for so long was ’cause of my dad.
Butterscotch discs, those foamy orange peanuts — I think they’re called “Circus Peanuts” and are the most vile candy ever — almost any candy that Brach’s makes, he had a bag of stashed in his room somewhere.
Occasionally he would have chocolate, but that never lasted long. Too many females around.
His last obsession, before he passed on, was with Cape Cod Potato Chips.
Honey, if that man found one bag at the store, he’d buy every bag.
God forbid you got a hankerin’ for some Cape Cod chips because fighting over those chips would be the only thing he’d stop watching a ball game for.
Never saw a 75-year-old man leap off a bed so fast.
You might could get away with it if he was snoozing, and sometimes you couldn’t tell if he was snoozing ’cause the light would hit his glasses just right and you’d have to sorta sneak up on him.
He’d lay there looking totally zoned out and just as your hand would reach for a bag under the bed he’d say, “I’ll break that ahm...” in his Boston accent.
“Only if you can catch me!”
Trust me when I say this: Giving up smoking gave him a lot more energy.
With Mom blocking your way with her wheelchair and him leapin’ off the bed, none of us stood a chance.
Glad they never felt that way about their cigarettes.