Hopefully, the familial nature of this sighting doesn’t creep anyone out, but I suspect most people will be able to relate to this “anything’s possible” sightings I scored at Thanksgiving dinner 1999.
Tracing this back to its origin, my cousin Jamie was like a kid sister to me throughout our childhood. We acted, thought, and looked alike, with our platinum blond hair and our mutual connection of being only children in our respective families. We hung out together all the time as kids, sharing a passion for coloring books, getting lost in cornfields, and the TV show “MacGyver”, among many other things. As we grew into our later elementary years, we would confide to each other our early forays into puberty and our crushes on members of the opposite sex, having sleepovers at my grandmother’s house or at her house where we’d play video games and watch movies all night long. We were great buddies on into junior high, at which point we began to see much less of each other.
All through her formative years, Jamie was looked upon as the fair-haired child by everyone inside and outside the family. I didn’t exactly have a bad reputation in the family, but Jamie exuded feminine grace and class around the family and everybody seemed to think she could do no wrong, despite her neglectful upbringing by a largely absentee single mother.
I knew better and saw the mischievous side of Jamie from the very beginning, and that mischievous side seemed to come out more often during my limited interactions with her in our high school years. But even with her enveloping less-wholesome-than-you’d-think image, she still made numerous references to how gross she thought cigarette smoking was throughout high school in the early to mid 1990s. I pretty much just grinned and nodded, not having come to terms with my fetish at that point. She had always stuck her nose up at smoking whenever the subject had come up in our childhood as well. It definitely didn’t seem like she would ever be a smoker.
Fast forward to 1996 when her mother had a serious mental breakdown and Jamie seemed to change significantly (or perhaps simply took her subtle youthful rebelliousness to the next level). She went to college the following fall and started getting tattoos, naval piercings, and discussing publicly her campus alcohol escapades. Finally, I caught a passing reference at Christmas 1998 to her being seen smoking at the hometown bars during Christmas break. She confessed that she smokes when she drinks sometimes, which certainly intrigued me, but everybody seemed to be content with the explanation that Jamie was and would remain a social smoker during her college years. But in the back of my mind in the fall of 1999 (the year that I wholeheartedly connected with and embraced my smoking fetish), I wondered if I would hear more about Jamie’s smoking at Thanksgiving dinner. Nothing could have prepared me for what I did see, however.
My grandparents had Thanksgiving dinner in their basement every year, as this particular basement was very nice and only partially underground. We discussed the impending Y2K disaster reportedly looming with Jamie and I chiming in with our own paranoid theories. I never ate much, so I was always the first one done. I went upstairs and rested on the couch while the others finished eating. Jamie came up a few minutes later and journeyed to the coat rack area where her purse was. Out of the corner of my eye, I could have sworn I saw her carrying a pack of Marlboro Lights with her as she proceeded back downstairs. I was curious, but couldn’t bring myself to believe she would light up down there with my dad and grandpa, the only smokers in the family. Less than a minute later, I would be proven wrong as several people had by now come upstairs with dirty dishes, including my antismoking uncle who whispered in disbelief to other relatives in the kitchen that “Jamie is down there smoking with dad and Bernie”. I was in another room, but my heart literally stopped when I heard that, and I journeyed back down those stairs faster than I’ve ever descended a flight of stairs before.
As I turned the corner at the bottom of the stairs, I discovered it was true. At the dinner table sat my grandpa, my dad, and my 21-year-old cousin Jamie, all brandishing cigarettes and chatting with one another. I tried to contain my excitement as I passed them at the table and sat on the basement couch pretending to watch the TV but really drifting my eyes over to that table to watch Jamie smoke. Words cannot express how hot it was to see this long-standing antismoking relative who I always thought would be a hot smoker sitting there dragging on a Marlboro Light. She endured tremendous ribbing from just about everybody at Thanksgiving that day, but took it all in stride, and went back down to the basement to smoke two more cigarettes with her grandpa before leaving at mid-afternoon.
And as a brief addendum to this already long story, Jamie would bring her pack of white slavemasters back for Christmas a month later. She and I were in a discussion when she looked at me and said “I am dying for a cigarette but I’m afraid I’ll get bitched at for lighting up.” Here was my chance to do something good for the world of youthful female nicotine consumption, shrugging off her concern and encouraging her to smoke ’em if she had ’em, in so many words. And she did, lighting up in mere seconds in a crowded room and raising the ire of nonsmoking relatives as she sucked down another of her cigarettes.
Jamie had a fairly rough time of it in the years after this, getting married and divorced in the span of a year, leading a fairly promiscuous lifestyle, and ultimately losing her mother two years ago. She has, however, gone on to get her Master’s Degree and has attained a pretty impressive job for herself. Only a few times have I seen her in the past 11 years and don’t know if she still smokes or not, but I saw the front page on her “set to private” Myspace account back in 2007….and she actually had a cigarette dangling from her mouth in the picture….which certainly tells me that the habit stuck.