The Photo Album

(by anonymous6, 31 January 2002)


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The Photo Album
By DK

PART 1

It was the summer of my thirteenth birthday.  I was to spend the summer with
my grandmother, as my mother was going to attend a conference for several
weeks.  Although she only lived a couple hours away, I had little contact with
her over the years.  The trip was one I wasn't looking forward to.  My
arguments were fruitless, and I soon found myself at my grandmother's house.

After unpacking and getting settled I joined my grandmother in the living
room.  We didn't seem to have much to talk about, so to strike up
conversation, she pulled out an old photo album.  We began by looking at baby
pictures of my mom and aunt, and progressed through their lives.  Several
pages in I was shocked to see a picture of my mom, at about my age, smoking a
cigarette. "How old is mom here?"  I asked my grandma.  She flipped over the
picture to reveal the date; it turned out she was twelve.  I asked my grandma
how long she had been smoking.

"I'm not really sure hon. There were always cigarettes around, and your mother
knew if she wanted one she could. Smoking has nothing to do with age" Suddenly
a look of surprise appeared on grandma's face.  "Are you trying to tell me you
haven't started smoking yet young lady?"  

The question hit me like a ton of bricks.  What did she mean by "yet", was I
actually expected to smoke?  I had never really thought about smoking much
before, in a good or bad way.  Most kids at school considered it gross, but I
had never fully accepted that opinion. As her question reeled through my head
I quietly responded by shaking my head.

"You mean your mother hasn't discussed the good side of smoking with you?
Smoking really does all the wonderful things they say.  It makes you look
older, is very glamorous, and is wonderfully relaxing.  Unfortunately our
world has become of two labels, that of smokers and nonsmokers. When I was
your age nearly everyone smoked. I have always been proud that my girls were
smokers, and that they were glad to carry that label. You've heard the phrase
stopping to smell the roses?  Well I think more people need to slow and take
the time to stop and have a smoke. The anti-smoking lobby has tired to make us
think that smokers are bad people, but I think quite the opposite. But enough
of my rambling, lets get you smoking!"

Grandma led me to a small room in the corner of the house; I was surprised at
its contents.  Inside was a collection of hundreds of cigars, cigarettes, and
pipes.  I never knew that so many different types were made.  Grandma
explained she liked to have available whatever her guests might smoke. She
selected what she called "beginner" cigarettes, each in it's own separate
clear plastic holder.   We then went to the living room to begin my lesson in
smoking.

The cigarettes grandma had chosen were flavored of chocolate and cherry.  I
chose the chocolate one first, and found myself suddenly eager to try smoking.  

"Now honey this may taste a little awkward at first.  Remember when you were
younger and you hated tomatoes, but the more you tried them the more you liked
them?  Smoking is very much like that, and just like tomatoes the smoke has
things your body needs.  Don't breathe in the smoke in yet, just let it sit in
your mouth the first few times."

A huge smile came across grandma's face as she extended her lighter to me.  I
put the cigarette to my lips and sucked the flame onto the end.  The chocolate
flavor was wonderful as I let it roll over my taste buds. After letting the
smoke sit in my mouth for a few moments I pursed my lips and blew it out in a
tight stream.

"How was that honey?"  I replied that it tasted great.

"Someone at the tobacco company was very smart to give kids a familiar taste
to start with.  A normal cigarette can be pretty harsh for a first-timer.
It's sad to think how many kids never try it again after the first puff just
because of the taste.  Try another puff honey."

I watched as the cigarette glowed as I pulled in more smoke.  Like a piece of
chocolate, I wanted to eat the wonderful flavor.  Without thinking I inhaled
the smoke like a candy-coated breath of air.   I inhaled as deep as I could,
extending the taste throughout my insides.  I held it inside me for a minute,
savoring the taste and feeling.

Grandma's expression was like I had just won a spelling bee.  "That was
wonderful honey!  I didn't expect you to inhale yet, but you did it great, and
didn't even cough.  It's important to take it deep and hold it like that.  It
looks like the family genes have been passed on.  I'm so proud of you!"

Her encouragement urged me on.  I took an even larger puff and held it once
again.  The taste was wonderful, but my body was reacting as well.  Relaxation
set over my body, every care in the world gone.  With grandma commenting on
what a good girl I was, I took more drags.  The cigarette seemed to be gone
too soon, and I felt wonderful.  This smoking thing sure was great.

PART 2

An hour or so passed after my first cigarette.  Grandma was lighting another
of her Eve 120's, and I wanted to try smoking again.  I asked her if I could
try another cigarette.

"Of course you can honey.  You should never ask for permission to smoke, when
you want one just light up.  Smoke as much as you want."

Grandma extended her lighter as I put the cherry flavored one to my lips.  The
flavor was different, but no less enjoyable.  Each drag I took seemed like its
own separate heaven.  Grandma watched me intently, a broad smile on her face
each time I took a puff.  The cigarette seemed to be gone far too quickly, and
I almost felt sad as I took the last drag.

Over the next few days smoking became more of a regular action to me.  I had,
as grandmother put it, "graduated" to full flavor Eve 120's.  The flavored
cigarettes were a thing of the past.  I felt as though I had lost my training
wheels, and was riding free for the first time.  Grandma would offer me a
cigarette each time she had one, and I never refused.  I had never felt better
in my life.

We began to go out shopping and dining throughout the city.  Grandma
encouraged me to smoke more in public as to project the "proper" teen image
and serve as a role model to other teens.  I was reluctant at first, but other
than a few rude stares, it was a wonderful experience to show off my smoking.
Grandma beamed with pride when I smoked in public, a smile always on her face.

I hadn't seen my aunt in years, so I was thrilled to hear that she and my
cousins would be visiting.  My cousin Carol was a year younger than me, and I
was about to meet her 8-year old brother Tim for the first time.  Tim burst
through the door first, running up and giving my grandma a hug.

"Can I have one of your cigars grandma?"  He asked in mid-hug.

"I don't know Timmy, I don't want to have to take it away from you like I did
last time."  I had never seen my grandma with such a stern look before.

"I promise I'll inhale it this time."  Tim looked in grandma's eyes pleading
like it was candy.

"I guess its ok then.  Just remember a growing boy like yourself needs plenty
of nicotine."  With that Tim bounded off grandmas lap, and headed for the
smoke room.

My aunt came and gave me a hug.  She wanted to look me over and commented on
how much I had grown.  She then told Carol to show us what she had bought for
her today.  Carol extended her hand to show us a rather bland looking ring.
She took the ring and bent up two wires on the sides.  I wasn't sure what it
was until she put a cigarette between the tongs.  It was an odd way to hold a
cigarette, but looked very glamorous.  Tim emerged from the smoke room with a
3-foot cigar.  Grandmas smile again beamed as she offered a light to each of
my cousins, and of course myself.  

Carol was eager to show me something.  She opened her purse and brought out a
large box.  Inside she had a huge collection of cigarette holders.  Finishing
her first cigarette she took out one of her favorite holders and inserted a
non-filter cigarette from a gold cigarette case.  Her lighter was very unique;
she said her mother had bought it for her when she was very young.  It looked
like a Winnie the Pooh Pez dispenser, but when the head was flipped back it
extended a flame.  I tried one of her holders and absolutely fell in love.
The smoke was so cool and I loved the look.  

Although I did like the flavor of the non-filters, I decided to try one of my
Eve's in the holder next.  To my disappointment my cigarette was too thin.
Grandma saw this and disappeared to the smoke room.  She returned with a small
plastic insert and my cigarette fit nicely.  It was nice to smoke with someone
my own age.  Carol and I chained smoked throughout her visit, and I used a
holder for each cigarette.  Their visit was coming to an end and Tim was just
finishing his cigar.  It was wonderful to spend time with them, and I was
saddened to see Carol and her holders leave.

Before we retired to bed Grandma said she had something for me.  She
disappeared to her room and returned with a small box and another photo album.
She said I shouldn't let Carol know about it, as she would be very upset.
Inside the box was a silver cigarette holder.  It was about 4 inches long, and
extended to almost 2 feet.  Grandma explained it was a present to my
great-great grandmother, given to her by her parents on her 10th birthday, and
had been handed down to the oldest daughter for years.  She opened the album
to show me pictures of my grandmothers from generations past, including her
and my own mother.  I had never really felt a sense of family heritage or
tradition before, but as I lit a non-filter I felt that I was doing my family
proud.  I decided to use the holder all the time, and kept to that commitment.  


PART 3

Grandma had a bridge group she attended regularly, and I was invited to join
her one afternoon.  The club met at Mrs. Anderson's house.  I say a house but
it was more of a mansion, with gated entry and huge gardens surrounding it.
Three other women attended, all in their 60's and 70's.  I wasn't familiar
with the game so I sat next to grandma and learned.  All of the women were
smokers, but I was reluctant to smoke in front of them.  Grandma noticed this
and offered me a cigarette; the women all smiled as I extracted my cigarette
holder and inserted an Eve.  I was soon very comfortable smoking around them,
and they offered many compliments to grandma and myself.

After several games of bridge the women all decided to go out for dinner.
This wasn't part of the normal routine, but the women all wanted to "show off"
my smoking.  I wasn't quite comfortable with this.  We sat at a semi-circle
booth facing the entrance, with myself in the middle.   Everyone who came in
could see us sitting there.  Now I knew that you didn't see many 13 year-olds
smoking, and I seemed to catch everyone's eye.  It was fun to see the
different responses people had to seeing me smoke, some were approving and
others were of disgust.  Grandma said not to worry about the rude stares,
besides who would say something to a bunch of old ladies letting a girl smoke.  

After finishing our meal, the ladies all began to light up.  Mrs. Anderson was
smoking another of her long brown cigarettes.  I asked her what they were.
She said they were called "Mores", and offered me one to try.  Grandma said
they were menthol and I should try the first one without my holder, incase I
didn't like the taste that would linger in it.  Now I considered myself a real
smoker at this point and really enjoyed it, but I wasn't ready for this new
cigarette.  The flavor was like nothing I had ever experienced.  I inhaled
each drag deeper than with the Eve's, like a breath of fresh air.  The
cigarette seemed to be gone far too soon.  I asked Mrs. Anderson for another,
and she was thrilled to see someone else enjoying her Mores.  I chained 3 more
of her lovely cigarettes at the restaurant, and as we left she offered me a
fresh pack from her purse.  I couldn't thank her enough, for suddenly I knew
the true pleasure of smoking.

The bridge club had decided to meet the next morning at Mrs. Anderson's coffee
shop.  I smoked More after delicious More while I was getting ready, and I
understood where the name came from.  As we were leaving grandma commented how
nice it was to see me smoking so much.  I understood what she meant.  I wished
my friends were here, so I could show each of them how wonderful these were.
Why anyone would not smoke was beyond me.

Mrs. Anderson's coffee shop was a busy place; every table and sofa was full,
with most of the patrons smoking.  I was no longer reluctant to smoke in
public, and immediately extracted my holder and cigarettes.  I smoked
cigarette after cigarette and soon found myself down to my last two.  Grandma
gave me money for a pack, although I wasn't sure that would be enough to last
me very long.  Mrs. Anderson said she owned the smoke shop next door, and I
would be able to buy there.  She did give me some special instructions to buy
cigarettes next door, and I needed to follow them to the letter.


PART 4

The instructions seemed odd, and I wondered what they were for.  I was to walk
down to the bus stop on the corner, and smoke my last two cigarettes before
going to the smoke shop.  I entered the shop and was amazed at what I found.
Everything I had ever wanted from the Backstreet Boys, Nsync, and Brittney
Spears.  They had souvenirs from concerts all around the world.  I had to stop
and admire all the posters, sweatshirts, and CD's. In all my browsing I almost
forgot why I was there, to buy my first pack of cigarettes.

  I finally made my way to the counter where a beautiful girl was smoking a
cigarette.  My nerves were getting the best of me as I asked for a pack of
More menthol 120's.  The girl asked how old I was, and as instructed by Mrs.
Anderson I told her the truth.  Suddenly the phone rang and the girl retreated
to the back for several minutes.  She finally returned and lit a More menthol
and set it in the ashtray, only to have the phone ring again.  Upon her return
she had another More burning between her fingers.  Giving a small shrug after
noticing this, she turned the ashtray to me, offering her first cigarette.  I
eagerly accepted her offering and took a deep drag.  The girl reached to the
cigarette rack and placed 6 packs on the counter.  I corrected her saying I
only had enough money for one pack.  It was just then that Mrs. Anderson
walked in.

Mrs. Anderson immediately went behind the counter and complimented the girl on
a job well done, and that she could expect a little something extra in her
paycheck.  She then introduced me to the girl, who's name was Cindy.  I was
then shown a small button behind the counter and told to push it.  I didn't
quite understand why the telephone in the back rang when the button was
pushed.   She then showed me how Cindy had used it as an excuse to go to the
back, where she surveyed several monitors.  From here she could rewind tapes
of several cameras located outside the building.  Mrs. Anderson said this was
to make sure that there wasn't a police or parental sting in process.  Even
after reviewing the tapes of my approach and any awaiting vehicles, she had to
ensure I was a smoker.  Using the telephone button again she had used it as an
excuse to go to the back and light the second cigarette.  All of this made
perfect sense to me, but it didn't explain the 5 extra packs of Mores.  Cindy
was quick to explain that for every pack a kid bought, they received one
additional for each year they were under 18.   I loved the idea and eagerly
took my 6 packs of cigarettes as Mrs. Anderson and I returned to the coffee
shop.

Upon our return I immediately set to work on enjoying the cigarettes that I
could proudly say I bought on my own.  Mrs. Anderson filled us all in on the
other parts of her operation.  The wide selection of the latest "fad" items
was so no one would question kids in the store and, to give those who may not
yet be smoking, a positive introduction to a smoke shop.  She only hired
beautiful 18 year-old girls this not only gave a positive role model to any
kids in the shop, but also kept a steady stream of regular male customers.
The idea of giving extra cigarettes to those under 18 was actually my
grandma's idea, and had worked very well since many kids had a limited
allowance. I spent many days that summer with the ladies and became friends
with Cindy.  I was nice to have so many people to smoke with.

PART 5

Summer drew quickly to an end and I was on my way home.  The bus ride seemed
to take an eternity, and there were no stops to smoke.  Mom met me at the
station and without thinking I lit up as soon as we were in the car.  Mom said
she knew about my smoking, and that grandma had given her quite an ear full
for not teaching me herself.  We were in the house only a few minutes before I
started another cigarette.  I soon chained into a third cigarette, causing mom
to ask how much I smoked.  In the month or so since I had found Mores I had
increased to a little over 2 packs per day, and I told her this.  "That's
wonderful honey!"  I only smoked a pack a day at your age, and I was trying to
smoke as much as I could!" I could see a small tear in the corner of her eye.
To this day I don't think any A+ I have received has made her as happy.

We sat and chatted about my visit to grandmas for several hours, both smoking
one after another.  Mom was glad I liked the holder, since she could never get
used to it.  Mom said I should write a letter to grandma thanking her for a
wonderful summer.  I went to grab a piece of paper, and decided to write a
letter to each of the members of the "bridge club".  I wanted to thank them
all for their encouragement of my smoking and making me comfortable with it.
Mrs. Anderson deserved a special letter, for introducing me to her wonderful
cigarettes.  As I sat down and began to write, with my holder in one hand and
a pen in the other, I heard a click from across the room.  There stood mom
with a huge smile on her face and a camera.  It was to be my first addition to
the family photo album.


EPILOGUE

About a week before school was to start, mom came to me with some news.  She
said we were going to move to grandma's town.  She had decided my smoking was
more important than promotions in her company.  There was a smaller office she
would transfer to and still make the same pay.  Mrs. Anderson, who was a
retired teacher, had agreed to home school my cousins and myself. She was
apparently excited about starting a school for smokers, and hoped it would
grow.  I told mom it wasn't necessary, but she insisted, saying that some
things in life are more important than money. 


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