Today is an important anniversary for me. It's not our "wedding" anniversary (that's in May).* It's not the anniversary of our first date, either. It's not the anniversary of us moving in together (Valentine's Day, ironically enough......everyone wants to spend that particular holiday moving furniture in the pouring rain). It's not the anniversary of our first fight, because we're still waiting for that to happen. Seriously. We just don't have the energy to fight. Below is the transcript of our fiercest argument:
Today is actually the anniversary of the date that I quit smoking. It has been 16 years ago today that I smoked my last cigarette.
Everyone in our family smoked. Both parents, both sisters, both brothers. [Hey sisters, did our grandparents smoke? I don't remember.] We even had RULES in our family about smoking, fercryingoutloud. We couldn't smoke OPENLY until we were 16. So we sneaked around from whenever we started (around 13 for me.....please just shoot me now), and then proudly smoked out in the open upon achieving that milestone 16th birthday. Get your driver's license, fire one up. Nice.
We could smoke at our high school too. When my older siblings went there, they had rules for that as well. Only the boys could smoke, and only those in 9th-12th grades. [We had eighth graders in our high school until right after I graduated.] Back then they had a smoking building for the boys.....can you imagine what THAT must have been like? One day my eldest brother was hanging out at the smoking building with his buddies, and the superintendent of schools walked by. He smirked at them and said, "Better enjoy it boys, 'cause tomorrow we're tearing it down." The guys were apparently outraged. [I'm bound to get some of this story wrong, because my eldest brother was 9 years older than I. But it's still a good story, I think.] The guys said to themselves, "Hell no, they won't tear it down. We'll tear it down ourselves." So they did. Concrete block by concrete block. I don't even want to know how they got it started.
Little did they know the superintendent was only joking.
By the time I arrived in high school, you could pretty much smoke anywhere you wanted to. Except the bathrooms. Which is naturally where we wanted to smoke. By the time I graduated, the officials had started requiring a notarized parental permission form to smoke at school, and there was a fenced off area (paddock?) for the smokers to hang out. We thought we were so cool.
I quit smoking after I married my baby-daddy, and I stayed quit for 3 years. I started back for some unknown reason when Sweet Girl was about 2 years old. Actually, it's a known reason, but I'd rather not talk about it.
In June of 1992, my sister and I rode in our first Bicycle Ride Across Georgia. We didn't smoke during the day, but when we got into camp, we'd sneak off somewhere and smoke. We had regressed back to our pre-16-year-old days! I remember one time we went around to the BACK of the school where we were camping, so we wouldn't bother anyone with our illicit smoke. This battle-axe of a woman came stomping out the door (that we hadn't noticed was standing open to air the school out with 95-degree breezes) and demanded, "You girls go somewhere else to smoke. That's disgusting!"
That same September, Katydid (I'm using that for your nickname now) and I bought our first what we THOUGHT were expensive bicycles. I remember her saying to me, "If we quit smoking, we could pay for these bikes in a year with the money we'd save." I thought to myself, "Damn! That's a lot of money!" Hmph. Little did I know about my future bicycles. Or how much cigarettes would cost in the future.
The weekend we were supposed to go buy our new bikes, I was sick. It was either bronchitis or a very bad cold, but it incapacitated me to the point that I couldn't make the shopping trip. I told Katydid, "I trust you. Whatever you decide to buy, just get me one like it." 'Cause that's what sisters do. Our brother bought one too, I think because he couldn't stand the thought of his sisters being more macho than he was. He didn't keep it very long. Screw macho-ness.
So they took care of the bicycle purchase, and we were supposed to pick them up the next weekend (I think). That Monday night, September 28th, I was watching Monday Night Football, because that was back in the day before I had to go to bed by 8:30. I have no idea who was playing......Wait, that's what the internet is for.......I'll go look.............
Okay, I'm back. Apparently the Raiders (I don't know if it was before, during, or after their many relocations, so I don't know if they were Oakland Raiders, Los Angeles Raiders, or back to Oakland Raiders at that particular time....wait, I'll go look.......never mind, screw it) lost to the Kansas City Chiefs 28-7. They played in Kansas City, and the attendance was 77,622. Don't you just love the internet?
Anyway, I was watching the game, and I don't know whom I was pulling for, but it was probably the Raiders because I always loved Kenny Stabler. Never mind that he quit playing in 1979. I was coughing and smoking, coughing and smoking, coughing and smoking. Suddenly I had an epiphany.
"This is stupid," I recall saying to myself. Quietly, so I wouldn't wake the lump on the sofa.
I never smoked another one.
I can only remember two occasions in the past 16 years when I might have reached for a cigarette. On neither occasion was it a desperate "God, I have GOT to have a cigarette," but more of a knee-jerk reaction to a stressful situation that passed in less time than it has taken to type this. Once was in 1994 when my doctor called me, IN PERSON, to tell me that the results of that wonderful once-a-year test that all pre-menopausal women are supposed to have were abnormal. I don't think the news scared me as much as did hearing that it was HIS voice on the other end of the phone line, not that of his nurse. (Turned out to be nothing, thankfully.)
The other situation was in 1998, when I was involved in a very minor accident while driving a U-Haul truck back from a student competition down in South Georgia. No one was injured in the accident, but when the nice representative from U-Haul told me they would send another truck right out and unload the one I was driving, my stress level intensified exponentially. I didn't dare tell them that the truck I was driving carried two student projects: an automobile engine and a small house that 10 men couldn't lift. As it turned out, one of the people who had stayed on the scene to support me in the accident report statements was able to figure out why the truck wouldn't start, and he fixed it. No need to unload it on the side of the interstate after all. This same guy and his sister stayed on the scene for the hour and a half it took the state patrol to get to us. Seems in the back-up caused by our little accident, a rather serious accident had occurred. So we had to stand there and wait and wait and wait and wait, and those two folks stayed with me although they didn't have to. They were both smoking, and I remember thinking, albeit briefly, "Damn I wish I still smoked." But again, the feeling passed very quickly. Don't you wish I hadn't burdened you with this drivel?
Occasionally I dream about smoking. Not wistfully, mind you, but even in my dreams I am aware that I'm not SUPPOSED to smoke. Every time I have this dream, I realize I'm smoking, and I think to myself, "Oh no, the last _____ years are all meaningless now!" (It's that all-or-nothing thinking again.)
It's a good thing I quit before I met hubby. He has NEVER smoked, even though both of his parents and his sister did. He has never even been tempted to smoke, and he says if I had still been a smoker, we would have never been together. Things do happen for a reason. Who would have known that I would be thankful for a terrible cold?
*I said "wedding" because we got to the courthouse in Chattanooga five minutes before they closed on a Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. They married us and the two couples who came in after us. That's for a later post.