This weeks New Memoir prompt was:
All concrit is welcome.
On the second floor of the small two-story house on Kensington Road in Indiana, was a study that contained the usual desk and armchair but also a brown pleather couch and a black and white TV. On the left side of the couch was a small end table that served as a resting place for a pipe stand and ashtray where my father would rest his pipe when it wasn’t clamped between his teeth perfuming the air with the scent of cherry tobacco.
On Sunday afternoons I would lay with my head on his lap and he would tell me which team we were cheering for, the black or the white. He would grade papers while keeping an eye on the game. When I became bored with watching the tiny ghost like men run up and down the field, I would gaze at the lazy tendrils of smoke curling from the dark wood bowl of his pipe and imagine myself light enough to float among them, springing from curl to curl. Then I would wake, aware of being tricked into taking my nap after all.
There was no study in the two-bedroom apartment in California and so my father claimed a corner of his bedroom for a study and in the land of seemingly healthy living, he smoked his pipe more privately, but the scent stubbornly clung to his tweed jackets with leather patches and ties. As long as I could smell that sweet, woody fragrance I felt safely tethered, even as he married my first stepmother.
In Maryland his study was on the second floor of the house at the end of the hallway, two doors down from my room. The ceilings were tall in that witchy, imposing, Victorian house and the drafts sucked the smoke from the room so quickly there would have been no scent at all if it hadn’t been for his refusal for different office furniture. As he began to pull away from this family, underlining his unhappiness with absence, I would sneak into his study and desperately breathe in, trying to soothe my confused, breaking heart.
In the next house, with the next wife, as new battles waged, his study was below my room and the smoke would drift past my window reminding me both how much and how little had changed.
Across the country in Seattle, again, his study was below my room, but here there was something else underlying the professorial scent of the pipe, Camel cigarettes. He stepped outside to smoke these late at night after having more wine than he could keep track of or hide, and they were as bitter smelling as my relationship with my second stepmother. When he finally left her, so too went the Camels.
We moved once more to an apartment where he could smoke wherever he liked and in this house though his desk was in his room, his pipes were in the living room, staking claim to a life he was trying to retake in part through sobriety. While away at college, I would purchase him one tin of his favorite tobacco for Christmas, trying to gift us with memories and hope for our bruised and changing relationship.
He, then bought a new house, a house I visited but never lived in. Soon after he married again, forming yet another family. The house now reeked of Kool cigarettes that she smoked four packs of a day. This smoke my father found frightening and oppressive and in a fruitless effort to help her quit smoking gave up his pipe.
Life eventually moved us to a place where our relationship was broken, our tether snapped. Still, after all these years, it is nearly impossible for me to picture my father without a pipe and every once in a while when I pass a tobacco store, the aroma seeps underneath the door lingering for just long enough to fill my nose reminding me that this was not always the case, reminding me of my love for him and the once scent of home.