Take Me Back Home

Those of you who have been following along will remember that I had surgery back in March and after a stay in the hospital I decided to end my 20 year on and off (but mostly on) relationship with smoking.  Now that I’ve been a non smoker for a full six months I’m reminded of the ridiculous reasons I started smoking in the first place.

In the summer of 1988 I was a teenage badass, in my own mind at least. At 14 I had gone full time surly, taken up smoking Newports.  By all rights I should have been happier, 1987 and 1988 are referred to in my family as “The time we had food”. Those were the years that we moved, like Muswell Hillbillies, from living beneath train tracks to the living the on quiet waterfront street. I don’t know what kind of scam my mom was running but all of a sudden she was married again and we had food. There were no cars on the dirt in front of the house, people weren’t passing out on the floor, in fact the place was nearly drug free. There were new babies in the house and we were being encouraged to participate in after school activities. I found this to be very disturbing.  I still went to the same school but now I lived on the south side of town, where everyone was some sort of middle class and up. I missed being my old neighborhood…so I decided that I wasn’t going to take this middle class thing lying down.

In protest I took up petty theft and smoking. Smoking because I knew it was bad and theft to support the smoking habit. Smokes were cheap then, $1.35 a pack on average but that was just your base cost. When you are 14 and smoking you don’t just buy cigarettes, you need to get gum, mints too, and one of those lighters with some kind of bikini girls on it. Smoking costs a lot at 14 but you got to rebel somehow and I did.  With my Newports tucked into my pocket I’d ride my bike back under and past the train tracks to my old neighborhood and hang out on some dead end or empty lot with the kids I knew, smoking cigarettes and trying to pretend I still belonged.

There’s no moral to this, it’s just something I remember. As much as I liked being home, the other kids began to see me as an outsider, a kid from somewhere else, no longer one of them. Eventually I just stayed home after that and stayed moody. By 1989 my mom’s run had ended and we were living in some house on the side of the freeway in the worst part of another town. We were hungry and I smoked a lot.

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8 Comments

Filed under Family

8 responses to “Take Me Back Home

  1. I understand smoking as a substitution for food. Sadly, I miss it. Smoking that is.

  2. Jen

    I quit last year but it creeps back in and out of my life puff by puff.

  3. I started smoking at 14, too – because my boyfriend was a jerk. In retrospect, dumping the boyfriend would have made more sense than smoking the cigarettes.

  4. betheboy

    Chia – That makes sense now but hindsight is 20/20.

  5. The first time I smoked I was about 12. My mom’s boyfriend was a total ass and made sure we kids knew how much he disliked us whenever mom wasn’t around. He never worked so when mom was out working he was usually passed out. So every time this happened, my cousin and I would each take 1 or 2 of his cigarettes. It didn’t last past the end of summer though (I mean the smoking didn’t last, unfortunately the boyfriend lasted a few more years). I briefly smoked again around age 16 (because of a boy) and then took it up permanently, so far, at 19 (because of a boy. of course).

  6. Proud of you dude. Keep it up.

  7. wow, i guess it’s no surprise when we ingest something like that during formative years that we get addicted so badly. this is an awesome post.

  8. The first time I tried smoking I think I was 7 or 8 years old. My cousins talked me into it after they taught me how to roll a cigarette.

    Mind you, although they were 5 years older than I was, the cigarettes we made weren’t tobacco cigarettes. They came up with the bright idea of making cigarettes not with tobacco, but with corn “hair” – that hair-like stuff that you find on corn husks after you peel off the leaves.

    I tried proper smoking when I was about 15 or 16, but the intention behind it wasn’t rebellion so much as the fact that I wanted to be Bette Davis and make my voice deeper. Needless to say, my plan failed miserably since I hated it, and realised that I had to smoke a LOT of cigarettes to make my voice deeper. Clearly I am wimp.

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