Marlboro Country, Part 1: Robin

(by, 20 December 1997)

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Part 1: Robin

For as long as she could remember, Robin watched her mother smoke.  It 
looked so easy, so fun.  She knew, even at 10 years old, that there was 
something bad about least, bad enough that many people didn't 
like it.  But not her mother.

That was what got Robin interested, in fact.  Her mother.  It was rare 
that Robin's mother could be seen without a cigarette in her hand, or 
nearby.  Robin would watch, sometimes hidden, sometimes not, as her 
mother smoked her cigarettes.  Slowly, deliberately...she enjoyed each 
and every cigarette she smoked.

This, more than anything else, made Robin want to try it herself.  But 
she knew, although she didn't understand exactly why, that it wasn't 
something 10 year olds were allowed to do.

One day, a rainy afternoon when her mother was off from work, Robin and 
her mother were sitting at opposite ends of the sofa, reading.  It was a 
quiet day...she and her mother had been playing together earlier, and it 
was just a relaxed day with nothing special to do.

"Mom?" Robin asked, tentatively.

Her mother looked up from her magazine.  She had just lit a cigarette, 
and blew the smoke toward the ceiling.

"Why do you smoke?"

She looked up for a second.  "Well, I guess I knew this would come 
sooner or later.  Does the smoke bother you, honey?"

"No, no," Robin said, quickly.  "That's not it.  I'm just wondering."

"It's hard to say, honey," Robin's mother began, taking another deep 
pull on her cigarette.  She let the smoke out slowly, mostly from her 
mouth, but some of it came out of her nose too.  Robin wondered if it 
tickled when she did that.

"I guess it's because I like it."

"Tommy's dad says its a bad habit, and people shouldn't be allowed to do 

"Yeah, well," Robin's mother said, "That's one opinion.  I disagree.  
But, I do care about you, Robin.  If my smoking bothers you, and you 
don't want me to smoke around you, that's okay.  You can tell me."  She 
took care, now, to blow her smoke away from her daughter.

"No, mommy.  It's just....well, I'd heard people talking about it, and 


"Uh, well....can I try it?"

Robin's mother was inhaling when she said that, and she started to cough 
uncontrollably, smoke coming out of her in one big cloud all of a 

"Really?" she asked, when she recovered.  "You want to try a cigarette?  
You're a little young to smoke, you know."

"I know, and if you don't want me to, that's okay.  But I've been 
watching you, and I'm kinda curious.  I want to just try it.  See if I 
like it."

Robin's mother thought about it for a minute.  "Well, I guess it won't 
hurt much...after all, my second hand smoke has probably done as much 
damage as smoking one on your own will do.  Okay, but first, a couple 

"One, this sort of thing is only to go on when its just you and me.  You 
can't smoke in public, or when other people are around.  Also, smoking 
is very bad for you...I do it, but I'm not encouraging you to.  It's a 
decision you have to make for yourself, when you're older."

"I know."  Robin said.

Robin's mother picked up her pack of cigarettes.  "Now, these are 
Marlboros.  They're pretty strong, but I don't have any lighter ones 
around, so they'll have to do.  Here's what you take this," she 
handed Robin a cigarette, "and put it between your fingers like this."

Robin held it in her hand, and just looked at it.  It looked strange in 
her small hand like that; big, too, compared to the one in her mother's 
bigger hand.

"Now, take it and put it in your mouth, just between your lips.  I'm 
going to light yours for you.  When I do, you have to breath in through 
the cigarette.  Just go slow, and don't take too much in at once.  You 

Robin nodded.

"Okay, here we go."

Robin's mother flicked the lighter and slowly moved it toward the 
cigarette in Robin's mouth.  She was a little nervous, but kind of 
excited too.  She breathed in as the flame came close, and felt the 
taste almost immediately.  She tried to stop quickly, but more came into 
her than she expected, and she coughed.  She saw a huge cloud of smoke 
coming out of her mouth and was amazed by it, even as she tried to 

"You okay?" her mother asked.

"Yeah," Robin said, gasping.  "Just didn't expect it.  Let me try 

This time, as she held the smoldering cigarette to her mouth, she took 
the smoke in gently, easily.  Slowly.  It didn't feel so harsh this 
time, since she was expecting it.  She held it inside for a second or 
two, then blew it out, just as she'd seen her mother do many times.

It came out in a cloud, a pretty faint one at that, but it was coming 
from her mouth!  She was actually smoking!

Her mother lit a cigarette herself, and Robin watched as she inhaled on 
it deeply, and blew out a thick line of smoke.  "How do you do that?" 
she asked.

"It takes practice.  You have to get used to it.  You want to try again, 
or have you had enough?"

"No, I want to try again." Robin said.  She inhaled on her cigarette 
again, this time pulling a little more inside of her.  She stopped just 
as she felt she was going to cough again.  This time it was a little 
easier.  She felt it go deeper inside of her this time, it almost felt 
like it was going down clear into her lungs.  She held the smoke inside 
a little longer, and blew it out again.  Almost as soon as she'd exhaled 
all of it, she tried again.

"It gets easier each time," her mother said.  "You're doing really well, 

"Thanks, mom." Robin said, and she took another inhale.

It felt really nice, sitting there on the sofa, smoking with her mom.  
Robin felt like a grown-up, a real adult.  She watched the cigarette in 
her hand, between her two small fingers, and thought it looked really 
natural there, like it belonged there.  Like it was a part of her.

When she was done with it, after what seemed a very short time, she 
watched her mother crush her cigarette out in the ashtray, and Robin did 
it exactly as her mother did.

"Your first cigarette, Robin," her mother said.  "What do you think?"

"I liked it.  Can I do it again?"

"Not right now, but, if you want to, sure.  Just remember. This is only 
between us, and you can only smoke when we're alone together.  Okay?"

"Okay, mom."

After that, a few days later, Robin smoked again with her mother.  It 
became something of a ritual, a regular thing.  Early evenings, usually 
just after supper, Robin and her mother would sit together and smoke.  
For Robin, it was a very nice feeling, and she felt closer to her mother 
after that.  She knew, as the times she'd smoke became more and more 
frequent, that she would be a smoker when she grew up.

Just like her mother.

[Continued in Marlboro Country Part 2: Donna]

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