nostalgia and cigarettes


{ Originally posted at }

Smell and nostalgia have been best friends for eons. Like peas and carrots or peanut butter and jelly, these friends seem destined to return to each other with a loyalty I only wish I could mimic.

Should I ever have children, I envision myself being the kind of mama who bakes oodles of chocolate chip cookies so that even my grown-up children want to call me whenever they smell a warm oven.

But for me, cookies and memory are not intrinsically linked. I have a fondness for the scent of cigarettes more than the sweet smell of baking.

Nostalgia rushes over me and gently tugs me back to cold evenings and wool pea coats and Thanksgiving dinners each time a cigarette exhales a curled cloud of memories.

Confession: I have never once smoked a cigarette.

Even so, cigarettes smell like safety to a little girl with three grown-up sisters who took long walks in all sorts of inclement weather, lighting bright yellow flames against white tubes of tobacco and menthol. When the festivities turned to arguments and the smiles turned to clenched fists there were always cigarettes that needed to be smoked.


In the cold.

Where the devils left you alone.

It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I realized an escape into the cold for a long walk on Christmas or Thanksgiving was not about the walking, it was about the smoking. Well, it was about the smoking and the escaping.

Maybe those walks are the reason I’m also fond of the rain and why I don’t like to be in a room where the tensions are quickly shifting into fifth gear, when I could just as soon put my boots on and take a stroll around a darkened neighborhood. And maybe I’ll never grow out of my affinity for cigarette smoke and wool. Maybe I’m okay with that.

There are rarely cigarettes any longer, but there are still long walks in inclement weather to escape the devils who dared to stay indoors.


  1. Jody Ohlsen Collins says

    Sarah, in a wierd click/turn of the blogosphere, I am tickled to say I have found yay–another!–PNW faith blogger. I’m in Renton. :-) Cara will be at the Faith and Culture conf. in March and I hope to connect with her there. In the meantime, I enjoyed reading your (de)tales post at her space. I totally get the cigarettes and memories piece. I’m surely closer to your parent’s (grandparents’ age) but remember the smell of tobacco well. It was a 60’s thing, I think.

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