Candy Cigarettes

Published Date: June 9th, 2008
Category: Weekly Thought


I was destined to be a smoker.


As a child, I would religiously make my own cigarettes. I would roll up pieces of white paper (cut exactly 5 inches long), seal them with tape, meticulously color cotton balls with a red marker and then shove them into the ends of the paper rolls.


The pièce de résistance?


The baby powder I would lightly shake onto the ends of my cigarettes, thus giving the illusion of smoke when I would take a puff.


This was when I was six years old.


When I was eight, I discovered the Good-Bye Ranch, otherwise known as the shady “candy store” near the train tracks. They sold candy all right, amongst other things. Rows upon rows of sugary delicacies all for under a quarter, including my favorite, candy cigarettes.


I so loved those candy cigarettes. The little pieces of chalk that somehow tasted like Necco wafers and had just the tiniest bit of a red mark at the end to signify a lit cigarette. I would roll them up in my t-shirt sleeve sometimes while I rode around on my CHiPs big wheel.


And then when I was thirteen, I was sitting outside Barone’s pizza parlor with my best friend when someone threw a lit butt into the bushes. I quickly picked it up and puffed on the slimy, dirty butt.


It took me three more years, but at sixteen, I came back from my two weeks in Paris not only with a taste for cherry (yes, cherry) beer, but also my own little pack of menthol Virginia Slims tucked into the inside pocket of my Levi’s jeans jacket. And I was hooked.


I loved everything about cigarettes: the look of them, the taste of them, the slight buzz you get from your first smoke of the day. I loved the absolute perfect combination of a $1 cup of diner coffee and a Camel Light while hovering around a hang-over on a Saturday morning. I loved fancy cigarette holders and silver cigarette cases. I loved the angsty act of “packing” my cigarettes—smartly rapping them into my palm or onto the nearest waste can. And when I finally started making money, I reveled in the beauty of a pack of Dunhills with the rectangular shape, maroon packaging, and the crisp gold foil inside.


But like most educated, female smokers, I realized that I needed to stop. So I began my battle at age 25 and finally stopped smoking (not even a social cigarette while I am drinking) at age 28.


And I still consider myself a smoker. The craving went away for a while and then strangely came back in my third trimester and has not left since. I am fine most of the time except for when I am walking on Michigan Avenue behind a smoker on a sunny day, and then all I want to do is wear MY sunglasses and hold MY Starbucks and walk down the street smoking MY cigarette. But I am a mother now, so smoking is a luxury I will not go back to.


That is, until today. We went to this little Jewish deli (J.B.’s Deli in North Andersonville. Delicious) and I spotted them tucked away in the candy corner/ice cream parlor and my heart skipped a beat.


Candy cigarettes.


And not only one, but three kinds. What a find! As I sat there silently eating my egg salad sandwich, I contemplated which pack I would buy. And then it occurred to me—if I bought them, would I therefore be starting the same cigarette fascination and addiction in my 3-year old?


Such a dilemma. Maybe he would be so entranced with his buttons, he wouldn’t notice. Maybe he would notice and I would find him sitting on the couch watching Dora with a cup of chocolate milk in one hand and a candy cigarette propped up in the other. Maybe I could just pretend like they were “candy sticks” and only secretly hold them like cigarettes during his nap?




We left the deli with my “candy sticks,” a strip of buttons, and some lemonheads. And like the gentleman that he is, before he diligently peeled button after button off his waxy sheet, he handed me my “candy sticks.” I quickly popped one in my mouth, chewing on it like a candy cane or a peppermint stick.


And then sat and waited for his nap…


This entry was posted on Monday, June 9th, 2008 at 7:43 am and is filed under Weekly Thought. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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