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Some Thanksgivings more memorable than others

Just a quick Thanksgiving story. It was 1958, I was 15 years old, and the whole extended family was gathered at the farmhouse in which I grew up. Tables were lined up end to end, table settings were counted over and over. Were there enough chairs? Plates? Table cloths? How to get all the pies served? The details seemed endless.

We all got sat down; all got ourselves stuffed. Then as usual, every adult got out their cigarettes and lit up. Shortly, one could barely see across the room. This was life in the fifties, as the proof of the negative health effects of smoking were just being discovered.

And I had discovered them, having come across the U.S. Surgeon General's publications at school. And at 15, it seemed to me to be a giant hypocrisy to be lectured about the dangers of smoking while every adult out there lecturing me smoked. So I had begun to pressure my parents to quit.

It wasn't going well. In fact, I never did get dad to quit, although he eventually did. However, mom seemed more vulnerable to my multi-front pressure. I lectured her. I hid her cigarettes. I filled my parents` bed with pamphlets. And in one inspirational moment, I carefully opened some of her packs of unfiltered Luckies at the bottom, snaked out some cigarettes, and loaded the tips of them with the broken-off heads of farmer matches. I sealed the packs up very carefully, and put them back in the carton.

So there we all were. Mom had positioned herself at the head of the tables, closest to the kitchen. While everyone else was lighting up, mom made a couple more runs to the kitchen, and finally she herself sat down. I then observed with some alarm that on her last run from the kitchen, she had brought back with her a carton of Luckies. She dug out a fresh pack, opened the top up, and pulled out a cigarette.

While everyone else relaxed and puffed, she lit a match, held it to the end of her cigarette, and for a moment, while I considered the odds that this would be one of the cigarettes I had stuck full of match heads, I thought nothing was going to happen. Then it happened.

The match heads began bursting into flame, one first. Then another. Then yet another. By the time the second one was flaring off and throwing tobacco sparks like a Fourth of July firework, everyone was raptly focused on my mother. As each additional match head burst into flame, mom let out another of several little shrieks.

Inside, I was shrieking, too. I was considering the negative effects of being grounded the rest of my life. And then, amidst the tension, someone giggled. Then someone else did. And then everyone was laughing. Mom had no choice but to go along, and laughed herself. Shortly after that, she quit smoking.

And it looked like I was going to live to see another Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving. Some are more memorable than others.