When I was 12 and some of that pre-teen rebel spirit was cropping up, I decided I would do something crazy.  I would smoke my first cigarette.  My mother smoked Newport Light Menthols, so the supply was accessible.  I just had to bide my time until her purse was unsupervised and she was busy.  One Sunday afternoon, I heard the shower turn on upstairs and spotted her purse on the dining room table.  This was my chance!  As long as I could get outside within 60 seconds and light the cigarette, I would definitely have several minutes to master my smoking style before she would be done.  I rifled through her purse and grabbed a cigarette right away.  Now for a lighter.  I moved her wallet and gum and make-up aside and still no lighter.  I jammed my hand into small inner pockets to see if I could feel for a matchbook–anything that made fire!  Still nothing.  I ran over to the junk drawer, stopping to listen for the shower water.  When I still heard it, I searched through every corner of the drawer and came up empty-handed.

I was running out of time.  My first walk on the wild side was about to be an epic fail.  I glanced around the kitchen and got an idea…the gas stovetop range!  This was the only way I could light my cigarette and still smoke it before my mom reappeared.  But lighting it on the stove meant lighting it in the house and then running outside followed by my smokey trail.  I convinced myself that the smoke would clear up by the time my mom came downstairs and besides, smokers can’t smell smoke, right?  I decided to go for it.  I turned the front range knob to high and “click, click, click” before the fire ignited.  I bent down to light my Newport in a hurry and as the tip of the cigarette met the flame and lit up red, I felt a flash of heat on my face.  I pulled back, though, turned the stove off, and ran outside behind a big tree to complete my mission.

My first smoking experience was not as romantic as I had imagined.  There was a lot of coughing.  I stamped the cigarette out and ran to the edge of the woods to dispose of it so that my mother would not find it.  When I got back in the house, I still heard the water on and rushed to the bathroom to wash my hands and brush my teeth.  When I flicked the light on and leaned into the mirror, something was different, but my mind could not immediately register what it was.  Upon closer observation, I realized that the ends of my eyelashes and eyebrows had been singed by the stovetop flame!  All of the hair was half its length and the ends were a whitish-gray color.  I had hard evidence of my bad behavior all over my face.  I was clearly a brunette on the top of my head, but had the eyebrow and eyelash hair of a balding geriatric.  When I ran crying to my mom to confess my sin and figure out what I was going to do to fix this problem before school the next day, she didn’t get mad.  She laughed.  Really hard.  And told me that I, my Newport Light, and our gas stovetop range had taught me my own lesson.  And the lesson continued the next day when I had to explain my plight to my classmates.  At the time, it felt like one mishap with a cigarette might ruin my social life forever.  Now, it’s just a funny memory that taught me that karma can come back around quicker than you think!

Lessons are interesting because while they can seem like an absolute disaster at the time, they can be pretty hilarious later.  The difference in reaction to the experience usually just changes with time and perspective.  I’ve already noticed my change in perspective looking back now on some of my “mothering mishaps” that took place when my son was 2 or 3 months old.  Like the first time I took him to the grocery store and I couldn’t figure out how to fit his car seat and food into the same cart.  Or the time I leaned in to give him a kiss and he threw up in my mouth.  Or the time he cried all day and I tried everything until I finally took him on a car ride and he continued to wail, so, exhausted and sweaty, I turned up Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to drown him out and proceeded to sing all of the words.  Total disaster then.  But pretty funny now.  At the time, my lessons probably included never to go back to the damn grocery store again, to keep my mouth closed when leaning in toward a baby with acid reflux, and that Queen can help solve any problem.  But, looking back, I see these occasions as lessons on relaxing into motherhood, not taking life too seriously, and trying not to be so hard on myself.

What are some of your mishap memories that have turned into funny stories and evolved lessons now that some time has passed?

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