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Louise

Forty some odd years ago, when I was a teenager, I made extra money by babysitting.  One young couple, with a new baby, hired me on an almost weekly basis.  They were not Mormons.  I knew this, because my mother was an ad hoc membership clerk of our ward and they were not on her list.

Even more telling, was a pack of Salem filtered menthol cigarettes in front of the toaster in the kitchen.  They had no television, but they did have a wall full of bookcases filled with the latest novels.  This was better than TV.  If I got tired of reading, I pulled out a Strathmore Premium Sketch pad I had brought along and drew long, leggy women in beautiful clothes.

And if I tired of that, well, then there was always the bathroom mirror.  Theirs covered the whole upper half of a wall.  It was nothing like that little medicine cabinet mirror we had in our bathroom at home, which had to be shared with nine other people.  This mirror was a stage for great performances.  I made all my faces in it:  the haughty face, the laughing face, the sexy face ala Bridget Bardoe, the distraught face.  I strutted, primped, pranced, minced and tap-danced in front of that mirror.  I sang, “St. Louis woman with your diamond rings . . .” in a sultry alto voice.  I was a star.

One night, I decided to have a smoke in front of the mirror.  I pulled one of the Salems out of its pack, my fingers fluttered nervously.  I had never smoked before.  I was not planning to be a smoker, but on this one night I wanted to be Bette Davis for five minutes.  I lit upin front of the mirror, raised my eyebrows, looked down my nose and inhaled.

It was then that I remembered a talk I had heard in sacrament meeting. It was about a woman who was traveling in Asia and had been in a devastating automobile accident.  Her injuries were massive, and she needed thoracic surgery.  The surgeon asked if she smoked.

“No,” she said.

“I need to know if you have ever smoked even one cigarette, because if you have, I cannot perform the surgery.”

The woman had never smoked even one single cigarette, and because she hadn’t, her life was spared.

I blew smoke through my nose.  Too late.  If I were ever in a car accident in Asia, it would be the end of me.

In all, I smoked three cigarettes.  Later, when I was fifty-something I had to have surgery to have three small congenital holes in my lung stapled shut.

Last year, I couldn’t blow out seven candles.

So there you go.  I’ve written your next Word of Wisdom talk.   You don’t have to thank me.

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