I grew up in Goffstown at a time
when cars didn’t have seat belts
and when grownups were addicted
to cigarettes. My mother used to put
out a juice glass with five or six Kent
cigarettes standing upright in it when
the Tuesday Club came over. The club
was a group of women who lived in town
and once a month met at a member’s
house because, well, there wasn’t much
else to do. I was six or so and they all
knew me, fawned over me, but I really
didn’t know them.
My mother didn’t smoke, but thought,
I suppose, offering cigarettes was chic,
gracious and a way to lift the social life
of our town. Lately, I’ve been watching
a few old black and white movies made
just after World War II and am amazed
at how pervasive smoking was.
I remember hearing one of my mother’s
friends tell how someone was smoking
in bed and died when their bed caught fire.
I heard the story repeated often enough
to make it apocryphal. Sometimes
it wasn’t a bed but a couch that caught fire,
but the moral was always the same: smoking
in bed will kill you – that’s all you needed
to know. It was the “settled science”
of the day.
I don’t think I ever heard an apocryphal
story about wearing seat belts from the
Tuesday Club, but ash trays in cars have
disappeared and cigarette lighters now
just charge mobile phones. The Tuesday
Club has gone now, too. Time has a way
of settling all things.
I know the Tuesday Club was cliquish, and waspish. Today with helicopter parents and soccer moms it would make the notion* of a comedy sitcom. Still, if my mother was alive today and I happened to walk in on a club meeting by accident, I would allow her to take me around, suffer the nonsensical fawning, and politely leave as soon as possible. I certainly owe her that. On the other had poetry rises and owes nothing to any of us.
* I heard Andy Griffith use this word when talking about comedy sitcoms and plays and it always seemed to me to occupy a space no other English claims.