From a list of significant events in the process of growing up I now recall that I missed a few. I didn’t go to kindergarten and I didn’t join the cubs because the waiting list was so long. I would have been too old by the time my turn came round anyway. I never had my own paper round and I never got conscripted for national service. I did however have my first cigarette at the age of nine. Along with some other boys we went through a packet of cigarettes one Saturday morning whilst walking through the Elster Creek drain. It ran underground between East Bentleigh and Carnegie, making it an ideal place for clandestine pursuits. I returned home that afternoon to be greeted by my father who viewed me suspiciously before asking ‘Have you been smoking?’
-A fairly simple and straightforward question. To which I answered succinctly and without hesitation ‘No.’ My father followed up with ‘Well, what happened to your eyebrows, they’re all singed and burnt?’ to which I replied ‘I don’t know.’ He smiled at me in that all knowing way that parents do. ‘Are you sure you haven’t been smoking? He again inquired. This time I hesitated before I offered my most appallingly bad response ‘ I wasn’t smoking Dad. I was only lighting them for everyone.’ Oh what a pathetic lie! It was too late to take it back and I couldn’t ask for another try....Take two perhaps?
I paid for that comment well into my adult years. My father would often recall those infamous lines whenever he suspected that someone was not being exactly accurate with the truth. He would recite the line ‘I wasn’t smoking Dad, I was only lighting them for everyone.’
It often arose when I was trying to explain something to his grandchildren and I would immediately recall how dishonesty brings you undone. Ironically, my father was a smoker for most of his adult life. I never took it up. They say we learn most from our mistakes.