Writers’ Forum: Rite of Passage

Sharon Hogan is retired from the Correctional Service of Canada. She is passionate about preventing abuse to children and has published a book on the subject. Sharon and her husband live in Bayridge. 

-Rick Revelle

Rite of Passage

As a teen in Grade 9, friends influenced me. Most smoked. My closest girlfriend provided my first illicit puffs. I decided to mimic her. We would perch ourselves on her bedside as we positioned our cigarettes like tough girls, movie stars and  experienced smokers, but obviously beginners. We watched vigilantly out her window, ready to plunge our cigarettes into a quarter-full Noxzema jar if her dad was sighted coming home from work. If her mother knew, she never let on.  

I got away with it until one afternoon when we were at our after-school favourite hangout, the ‘Dirty D’, sitting boldly in a car with a teenage, male friend in the driver’s seat. We had not gone anywhere; we were just sitting, talking…and smoking! All of a sudden the door flew open. I almost fell out of the front seat!  Mom! She was heading home from work. I heard, “I’ll see you when you get home!” slamming the door shut. I quickly climbed out and ran after her, asking if she would like me to introduce her. Her response was, “I don’t care who it is.  I’ll see YOU when YOU get home!” When I arrived home, there was silence.  I waited. I had never experienced any punishment other than an air of disappointment. 

Early Saturday morning there was a knock on my bedroom door. It was Dad. Sleepily I told him to come in. He looked dejected. He softly said, “Your mother tells me you are smoking”.  Chin up, leaning on my elbow, I bravely replied, “Yes”.  I was relieved she had not told him about a) sitting in a car b) with a boy.  No-nos! He said he was disappointed I could not talk to him about it. After a painful pause, he added, “Please don’t do it again.” I promised. He then reached over and handed me a little silver lighter with my initials engraved on it. I imagined he bought the treasure at Gostlin Jewelers. Meanwhile I had cigarettes, ashtray and matches under my bed. I was just 14.  

As an adult I often pondered, “Did Dad mean he would like me to not smoke again or not be reluctant to be open and talk to him?” Likely both. I used his heartfelt gift until I quit smoking–two decades later. I vividly remember the smoothness of that keepsake.

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