Monday, March 9, 2015

201202968 임정연 / Lim Jung Yun - Write something about yourself that no one knows about / 120315 Thurs56

Only a Whiff of Cigar Smoke Away.


Everyone has that ordinary something that is special to them. A whiff of baked banana bread might bring memories of their childhood to some, while others find the memories of their favorite teacher in school in the coffee stains left on a café table. For me, the special something that makes grandpa alive again are, cigarettes, old Korean brand cigars to be exact. Even so, cigarettes are special to me because they remind me of my grandfather.


My father's father made living selling cigarettes. He wasn't some major figure in the cigar empire or anything like that. He didn't even have a store. He just made a special sign with the word cigarettes blazed on it and slapped it on the side door of the house so people would know that this house sold cigars. An empty room formally owned by one of my uncles was turned into a storage room stacked with cigar cartons. From a young age, I grew up in a house filled with boxes of "This's" and "The One's" and "Lilacs" which isn't an environment that every child is usually exposed to. Because of this, my mother spent a third of my childhood educating me on the evils of "Grandpa's smokes".


 My grandfather was very firm about selling only Korean cigarettes which meant that his business wasn't that hot. Shadowed by foreign brand cigars with their shiny wrapping, exciting smells and sleek advertising, old-fashioned cigarettes with bland wrapping and a musk funny smell were apparently not so popular community. Because of his low sales, I remember how during the holidays, my grandfather would give an armful of leftover cartons to my father and uncles who all smoked at that time, and my mother and aunts glaring in silence at that sight.


Once in a while, a fellow elderly gentleman would drop by my grandfather's shop and buy a pack but that was pretty much of his business. Even so, when the regulars would come my grandfather would introduce me as his eldest granddaughter and that made me feel mighty and proud inside. When I walked into them in the street, they would recognize me and say "Hey, it's the cigar store's granddaughter!" which brought such a sense of pride in me that even the president's daughter could not have felt.



The proud days I had of being the cigar store's eldest granddaughter continued until I was 10. After that, my grandfather got sick and spent a year and a half lying in a hospital bed. At first he seemed no different than usual just in a patient's gown. Then he had to lie down a lot because he was so tired all the time which got me a little worried. Then, he got too weak to even speak which worried me a lot. Then, I wasn't allowed to see him for a few weeks until one last time. My last memories of my grandfather were of him lying unconscious and strapped to this machine that I couldn't possibly make head or tails of.


I don't know if cigarettes have become a special thing to me, or if I made myself think they were special to me. I honestly think it doesn't matter.  Because, whenever I see an old wrinkly man smoking a stinky cigar or when a part time worker at GS 25 or CU rips open a new carton of This apart, it reminds me of my grandfather. And not my grandfather who spent his last days in a hospital, but my grandfather who smelled of old tobacco not hospital and who was strong and active and funny and kind. When I remember my grandfather, suddenly I am a wee child again feeling high and mighty because I'm the cigar store's daughter. It is amazing how a nothing ordinary object can bring someone alive again within me with such a burning intensity. 


  1. Gayoung, Kim / Such a wonderful story! I'm really touched.I'm sorry about your grandfather's gone. I also have grandfather who loves to smoke. I hate cigarettes that make my grandpa weak, but at the same time I feel grandpa's smile and everything watching those cigars. But I will make him quit smoking someday! :-)

  2. I was impressed by the way you started the introduction. It captures the overall atmosphere of what stories you are about to tell. While reading your essay I became nostalgic about things that I have been oblivious of..