Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Once and Only

I come from a long line of non-smokers.
Generations of puff-nots.
But my best friend had a cousin staying over for the summer.
A cousin from the big city who had seen it all.
And done most of it.
I was about to get an education . . .
My family lived on a ranch twenty miles from Milk River, in southern Alberta.
Life out there was bliss.
And, because of a lack of outside influences, completely under the control of my parents.
I had seen people smoking.
Certainly I had.
But I had never considered the possibility of being one of them.
Not even for an instant.
Moving on . . .
My parents owned a house in town.
When Mom got tired of driving the twenty miles to take us kids to school and activities, we would move into town.
Until Dad got tired of driving out to the ranch every day to do ranching stuff.
Then we would move back.
It was a fun and exciting way to live.
The benefits of town living.
The joys of the ranch.
But one or the other of our houses often sat empty in the interim.
That summer, we were firmly ensconced on the ranch.
So the town house was sitting vacant.
A perfect place for 10-year-old girls to get an education from the 11-year-old-far-more-experienced-and-world-weary-cousin-from-the-big-city.
My parents had dropped me off at my best friend's house for a - gasp - three day sleep over while they went out of town.
We: my BFF, her younger sister and the Cousin (notice the capital letter) had been knocking around town for most of two days.
It had been an education.
It was about to become more so.
The Cousin bought a packet of cigarettes.
She was going to show us country hicks how to smoke.
Okay, it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Our biggest problem lay in finding a secret place in which to do our teaching/learning. I mean, there were twelve kids in my BFF's family. Plus the Cousin. Plus me. Her house was out . . .
Idea!
My family's empty town house.
I found the key and let us in.
The place echoed emptily.
Perfect!
We went into the main bathroom and dug out the cigarettes.
Cousin proceeded to light up.
Oooh! She looked so cool!
The rest of us were excited to try.
In no time, we each had a cigarette.
She helped us light them.
Soon, my BFF and her sister were blowing smoke in the most approved manner.
It took me a bit longer.
But I got it, once Cousin pointed out that one need to suck.
Not blow.
Oh.
I should point out, here that my parents weren't due to pick me up from my BFF's until the following day.
And, even then, they had no reason to come to this house.
Our smoking education could continue apace.
Without threat of interruption.
But parents never do what they say they are going to.
My BFF's little sister went out to the front room.
And immediately returned, wide-eyed.
"Your parents are here!"
"Sure, sure," I said, taking another puff. "Nice try!"
We all laughed.
A sound that broke off instantly when my Mom appeared at the door.
"Oh," I said. "Ummm . . . hi, Mom."
She looked at me. Looked at the cigarette I held in my hand.
Then turned and left.
Without saying a word.
We quickly cleaned up our mess and headed for the front door.
My parents were waiting in the car.
I said some quick good-byes and climbed in.
For several minutes, my parents said nothing.
Finally, Mom turned to Dad and sighed.
Then Dad turned to me and said, "I'm very disappointed, Diane."
I was completely crushed.
He didn't know it, but those four words had just killed my cigarette habit.
Forever.
Parenting done right.

18 comments:

  1. When you adore your parents it doesn't take much of a reprimand to to do the job

    ReplyDelete
  2. You and Delores are so right - and sometimes it doesn't even take a spoken word to convey it!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Yeah, I find that if you are usually pretty level and even handed with your kids and rarely yell or get angry at them, once you express disappointment it really resonates.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That describes my parents' parenting style perfectly!

      Delete
  4. Just stopped by to see how you are doing. I am still on a blog vacation for a while. I miss reading your fun stories. Wishing you an awesome Easter day. Blessings and hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've missed you, LeAnn! Happy Easter to you as well!

      Delete
  5. My mother caught me too right as I turned 15. My dad didbthe same speech and it worked...until he passed away four months later. I thought I'd get even with him I guess...29 years later I'm still trying to quit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your dad. Oh, the times when we wish we'd listened!

      Delete
  6. I did not get into trouble much either as a child, but the one time my mom used those same words, I was cut to the quick. My dad always yelled so I was good at tuning him out. My mom was a tougher cookie who did a good job with 5 rough and tumblers. So glad you never picked up the smoking habit. Me neither.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was just the opposite for me. My mom was a talker, so we tuned her out. But my dad . . .

      Delete
  7. Excellent story. I could picture every scene, including how you must have felt, sitting in the back seat, when your father uttered those 4 words.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I can just imagine you wishing the car seat would swallow you up when you heard those words from your dad.
    I come from a long line of smokers on both sides of the family, yet my siblings and I don't smoke. Never even thought about trying. I married a smoker and my sons both smoke but my daughters don't.
    I had hoped that both grandfathers dying of lung cancer would encourage my boys to stop, but no.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes you wonder just what it would take!

      Delete
  9. Yup - sometimes less is more. Often when I am at a complete loss with my own kids I say the very same thing. It's effect is the same too. The key - you can't use the phrase all the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. First, they have to care about you. Second, monitor frequency. Got it! :)

      Delete

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