I put a pinch of tobacco in my pipe so I can be like my father. He used to smoke a pipe as my sister and I, both no more than seven years old, sat on a shabby couch in our cabin watching Bruce Lee movies. My mom was there, too, her arm around my sister or me, laughing at the silly voice overs.
I sit here now and smoke a pipe, not to look cool or to start a buzz, but to feel like my father must have as he watched over us, his family. I want to see through his eyes, to look back into the past when to me, Bruce Lee seemed as almighty as Christ himself, and all we needed was each other.
It’s amazing to me how powerful our senses are. A smell or taste thrusts us into remarkable days, hours or moments. As I smoke, I’m reminded of so much. The taste of tobacco on my tongue reminds me of going fishing on summer days that make you feel like living forever. It tastes burnt, too, which reminds me of the times I smoked cigarettes to fill my lungs with something other than stress. And the smoke smells sweet, which makes me feel like I’m right back on that couch in our cabin, looking up at my dad as the smoke rolled from his nostrils and crept towards us.
People always say to look forward, not back. Don’t dwell in the past, press on to the future. Don’t think about where you were, but think about where you might be.
That’s all well and good. I get it. But I can’t help but think about how often I relive my memories, how often I think back to a particular time in my life. I do it every day. I think about my family, my friends, my ex-girlfriends, my great moments and my terrible ones. I think about it all, all the time. Because I don’t want to forget. I want to remember how it all feels, the emotions attached to each action and reaction, the feelings that I experienced and observed. If those memories leave me, I’ll lose such a definitive part of myself, a part that has been so carefully sculpted by God…or by chance.
It makes me happy to look back into the past. Sad, too. And thankful. And regretful. And certain. And confused. I guess I feel as anyone might when they review their life: a little old. But remembering makes the years seem not so long ago and my age less of a number and more of a guideline.
So I sit here, outside on the front porch of my apartment (it’s not so much a porch as it is a stoop, because I definitely can’t afford an apartment with a nice front porch) smoking a pipe like my father used to. I’m drinking cheap beer like I’m sure he used to. I text my mom to tell her I miss her. I can feel through the cool evening air that my sister is happy. I know my father is proud, I know that my mom loves me, and I know that my sister is right where she’s supposed to be. I know that my friends are ok, and that I’ll see them soon. I know that I’ve started to lose track of my ex-girlfriends, and that’s ok with me.
For all these things I know, there’s one that I don’t.
I don’t know who I’ll be next year. Or the year after that. Or in five years or ten. I don’t know what life has in store. I guess that’s all right. There’s a lot that will happen, much of which is out of my control. There are memories to be made, memories that will root themselves in my timeline. But I don’t want to think about those too much tonight.
No, tonight I reminisce. Because it’s one of those nights that life has slowed to a leisurely stroll. My head and shoulders are squarely above water, at least until morning.
Yes, until then, I’m going to sit here pretending that my stoop is a beautiful back porch overlooking a big yard with pear and plum trees. Until then, I’m going to smoke this pipe and feel like my father did.