When I was a young girl, my mother smoked cigarettes. She fiercely struggled with this powerful addiction, for many years. One time, she actually bundled me up, in a near blizzard, to go with her to buy cigarettes.
At age 10, she actually had me help her roll her own cigarettes, with using a Laredo machine! (I remember her telling me that it was less expensive than buying a pack of cigarettes). I recall being very concerned that my mother would develop lung cancer if she didn’t stop smoking.
During the early 1970’s, Reader’s Digest featured a series of articles about the harmful health effects of smoking, under the title “I Am Joe’s Lungs.” I showed my mother this article, and quickly picked up on the shame she experienced for engaging in such a destructive habit.
One day, I devised what I considered to be a brilliant solution to her nasty habit. I set up my cigarette making station, per usual. However, I decided to pull out my trusty pack of Crayola crayons. (They were never really far from my side, anyway). I decided that I would insert a colorful piece of crayon in each of the series of cigarettes that I was assigned to manufacture.
Yes, I felt mischievous and devious. I rationalized my actions with my strong fear of the consequences, should my mother not stop smoking. My mother thanked me for helping her with this task, like she always did. She pulled a cigarette from the pile of freshly-rolled ones that I had just made. My mother lit up, that familiar wash of soothing relaxation soon flooding her facial expressions. She continued to take another drag on the cigarette. To her utter astonishment, wax slowly began dripping down her nicotine-stained fingers! “What have you done, Bonnie Jo?”
I knew that I was in way over my head, as soon as she included my middle name. “How could you waste good nicotine?” she asked (a true oxymoron). I tearfully told her that, actually, I was only worried about what would happen to her if she continued to smoke. Long story short, my nearly 89-year-old mother finally stopped smoking, in 1977. I’m only happy that I never started.