Every now and then, Chris and I will share a cigar---not a big old Cuban or a Mr. Monopoly stogie, but a dainty little plastic-tipped White Owl or Muriel, and always outside the house. We neither have any tolerance for cigarette smoke, and shrug ourselves through the clouds outside store doors, or passing on the street, and especially the reek on a smoker’s clothes close in a restaurant or movie---it’s just unpleasant to us.
But the crisp fragrance of a tiny cigar, out by the fire-pit on a chilly night, imagining all those after-raking evenings, with the piled leaves lit WAY over in the side of the field and perfuming the Fall air with that unmistakable closing-down-the-year scent---there’s a certain charm in that which we both enjoy, aside from the affectation of the moment. I smoked cigarettes for several years WAY back when, and after that, a friend and I would share a little two-pack of Muriels on occasion.
And from the remembrance of a beautiful, classy school friend’s fragrance of Chantilly mixed with the hint of her Daddy’s cigar smoke---I always considered that one of the loveliest scents there was, as she rustled through life in silky blouses and taffeta petticoats and dark curls floating to her tiny waist. The scent of Pall Malls in our house was a paltry substitute for that elegant scent.
Once, when Chris and I had smoked one in the car, we went into the Mall to stroll a few minutes before a movie, and I took a peppermint from a basket on a table display. The lady at the table asked if we’d like to enter a drawing for a bus trip, and we won a “day-trip” which we chose to redeem with an evening at the Madrigal Feast at IU. We always gave credit for that magical evening to the Muriel which started it all.
But WAAAAYYY back when, in my first married life, WAY before all my second singlehood, WAY before I met Chris, I occasionally smoked a little cigar, in the days when you COULD smoke one in company or at a party. So, when my children’s Dad and I went on a big company convention to Washington, I smoked a cigar with Miss Edie Adams.
There was one big dinner event on the trip, in the enormous banquet room of The Sheraton, and the evening’s entertainer was Miss Adams, herself, known to us all from her television appearances and her cigar commercials. She sang and performed, and later in the show, the stagehands wheeled out a tall lamp-post. Applause from the audience, for we all recognized the familiar moment coming. And when she asked if any ladies in the audience enjoyed smoking Muriels, a great cry went up from the several tables where our group sat, with shoutings and pointings, and the spotlight settling on ME.
I was so flustered and it was such an unexpected thing---I was the youngest person in our whole group, wife of the junior draftsman, and not at all accustomed to taking much part in conversation, let alone a SPOTLIGHT. And as she smiled and beckoned, and the cheering and applause got louder, two of the men got up and pulled out my chair, with me stumbling my way FAR FAR amongst the tables to the side-steps up to the stage. And every step, all I could think of was the dress I was wearing---my Mother had made it for me special for that dinner event---a snug white long-sleeved MINI-DRESS, meant for an elegant evening, and not for LOOKING UP AT.
I made my way across the stage---I remember being sort of blinded by the light following my every step, and holding one side of my skirt caught in my hand tight against the side, so as to maintain as much modesty and dignity as possible. She welcomed me with a hug, offered me the Muriel, and lit us up as the music started. She handed me a mike and started to sing, and some weird something happened---just as if she and I had been right there all afternoon in our rehearsal tights and hair rollers, we backed up to the lamp, each lifted a high-heeled foot behind us to the pole, and finished in spoken, breathy unison:
Why don’t you pick one up and SMOKE it some time?
I’ve never before nor since been a part of such a strange, silly congruence of events as that crazy falling-into-the-moment in such perfect time. Smoke and bright light and such thunder of applause in that huge, echoing room---I guess that’s how it happens in Show Business, and I reckon I can say I’ve had MY Fifteen Seconds.