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Monday, June 28, 2010

Granny's Cigarettes

Does every little girl go through her mother’s belongings? I know I did… but first I’d already snooped through my Granny’s belongings. Her bedroom was a sentimental place for a woman not many considered to be sentimental. She was gruff in her speech, sometimes a cigarette hanging from the corner of her mouth, which seems completely out of character for a Granny - but people are who they are. My granny smoked Lucky Strikes. I remember this clearly; they were the first cigarettes I stole.

In my grandparent's farmhouse kitchen, to the left of the coal stove stood a floor-to-ceiling built-in cupboard - painted pink, like the rest of the kitchen. Solid wood doors hid the treasures on the bottom. Grandad’s riveter was in there. That’s all I knew of for certain - it was dark enough in there to easily hide a sneaky spider or two - and that made it completely uninteresting to me. G lass panes on top gave view to oatmeal (which we called Mother‘s Oats*) as well as my grandmother‘s carton of cigarettes... no spiders.

So, I stole a pack of cigarettes from her carton, found some matches in the junk drawer, and snuck outside. I must have been a sneaky child, because I remember many sneaking incidences… I could probably write a book on sneaking. I picture it being banned and burned at large bonfires by caring mothers. If I hadn’t any morals, I’d probably have become a criminal. Sometimes God saves us to do wonderful work in His name… other times, I think He might save us to prevent the horrible things we might do in our own names. Back to the story… it was a summer day, and I took my stolen cache to the back yard, past the little playhouse and the small fruit orchard to the next big grassy opening.

The back yard was bordered by brush. My grandmother did the mowing, and one area must have had only small plant growth because she’d sculpted out a little cove in the brush that was probably only 5 feet wide and 3 feet deep, but to a little girl… it seemed larger. I headed out there with the cigarettes and my matches. Because it was offset from the main lines of the yard, I couldn’t be seen from the house windows. I lit a cigarette and got a mouth full of tobacco. Lucky Strikes were filterless. It was disgusting. I tried once more and confirmed that this wasn’t exactly the thrill I thought it would be. But a campfire would be! I gathered some little leaves and twigs from under the brush and started my first campfire. It was probably the size of a dessert plate, and not as easy to start as I’d expected. I learned lots about life in my sneaky moments… trial and error of so many scientific concepts more easily, but less interestingly, available in books.

The one lesson that was glaringly obvious was that Granny knew everything. As sneaky as I was - she was even more perceptive. She always credited ‘a little bird‘.

“How did you know I was out here?” with cigarettes hidden under the leaves and matches out of sight as well.

“A little bird told me. Now where are my cigarettes and the matches?” She was amazing - truly amazing. She always caught me. She really understood my sneaky side, and there was no bluffing my way out of anything with her. Daddy was a different story - but Granny knew… and still loved me.

My Granny impacted my life in so many ways. She had time and patience, or perhaps she was just too tired to get riled up. Some would believe that this was a potentially dangerous situation - matches, twigs, cigarettes, and an unsupervised 10 year old - actually, when I put it that way, it sounds terrifying. Fortunately, Granny didn't have the benefit {or curse} of 24 hour news channels and Nancy Grace.

*The Mother's Oats company was acquired by the Quaker Oats Company in 1911.

*I called my grandmother 'Granny' as a direct result of my mother's instruction. I didn't know until many years later that the Beverly Hillbillies played a part in this act.

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