Last week we wrapped up at the point in my recent attempt to quit smoking, when I had just realized my newfound passion for cookies. Call it an obsession if you will. I had just discovered that we were out of both cookies and cheese. (Ironically, and completely unintentionally, I just now realized that evidently my vices have taken on an alliterative tone. Everything I’ve supplemented for cigarettes happens to start with “C”.) So I was about to go on a cleaning binge to keep myself occupied. I’ll now pick up right where we left off.

So I’m tidying up in the dining room when I spot something on the buffet (I think that’s what the antique table in the corner is called), which instantly irritated me. Many things can irritate me at this point. Like, for example, a passing cloud formation that I don’t approve of or the sound of the wind outside. The lid to a jar of salsa hitting the kitchen floor the other night almost put me over the edge and launched a multi-state crime spree. Apparently, my fuse was always lengthened by Nicotine. I didn’t know that about myself until now.

Anyway, what I saw was a five deep stack of those stupid holiday tins still sitting out. It had already been a week since we tediously packed, and put away all of the Christmas décor. Now I had to make another trip, either to the attic or shed, find the right box, and store these tins so I’m not spending the next eleven months moving an aluminum Santa face out of the way. I was really annoyed, but then I picked up the stack of decorative tins, and noticed they had some weight to them. Could it be? I slowly and gently opened the first tin as if it may contain explosives. This was the one with Mr. Claus’ face across the lid and he was smiling at me. In the tin was the mother load of sugar cookies. All carefully cut into fun holiday shapes and sprinkled with all kinds of colorful crap that would be on the no fly list for any diabetic. The next tin had a quartet of ginger bread folk smiling up at me from its lid. What treasures did they hold? I wondered quietly to myself. Yet again, I surgically removed the festive lid to reveal an equally impressive cache of chocolate chip cookies. My entire body became stimulated. Now, the pace at which I moved to the next tins started to pick up. The kids had theirs three weeks ago, but now this was MY Christmas. The next tin, emblazoned with a family of dancing candy canes harbored enough peanut butter cookies to shingle my roof. It just kept getting better. The last two tins were a medley of I-don’t-even-know-what-the-heck, but at this point it didn’t matter. They were all going to find their way inside of me – entering through my face. Yee-haaaa! No room for cigarettes in this mouth; it’s full of cookies!

I am completely aware of a few things going through the minds of many of you as you read this. I do realize that most people, finding a cavalcade of month old baked goods hiding out in their own home would more than likely be repulsed and immediately throw them all away, including the tins. I ain’t most people! I swear, as I removed the lids from each of those cookie tins one at a time, they each had an ethereal golden glow emanating from them like the brief case in Pulp Fiction. By the way, since it came up, there’s been something on my mind. If you’ve ever walked away from any Tarantino movie with complete closure, you’re either a much better person than I, or you’re a total liar. Sorry, I got distracted. That’s part of a rant for another day. And now, back to my cookies.

I know that my enthusiasm over my recent discovery of the confection connection made me seem a little more like a boxcar hobo than a reasonably bright father of four living in a house on the water. I wasn’t smoking for the first time in nearly three decades, I had no cheese, and just the night before, I was sitting in my own living room with my family, chewing vigorously on a straw, and looking at my gorgeous little girls contemplating which one I would eat first if it came down to it. I know it’s terrible! It was just a brief fleeting thought, but I didn’t want to rule it out as a viable option.

I have no intention whatsoever of sharing the cookies with my family. Not because I’m concerned about the freshness or my kids getting ill from eating them. It’s actually because I am selfish, non-smoking prick who wants them all to himself. I’ll now go back to the day I decided to quit, and set the stage for you. I need to first give you a little background before we can move forward…

As most of you already know, I’m temporarily out of work. Well, at least from my restaurant job. It’s closed for a month to do a few minor projects. Truth be told, I welcome the break. But I’m still working full time on my other two jobs; writing and being a full time Dad. These are the two more challenging and more rewarding of my three jobs, but the bartending gig is the one that pays the bills. The good news is I’ve got five weeks to spend with my girls round the clock. The bad news is, I’m doing it on a very short financial leash. I would love to be taking them to do all kinds of fun cool things, but I find myself having to come up with creative ways to entertain them (and myself), while sticking to our budget. It’s not nearly as bad as I’m making it sound. We’ve actually been having a terrific time. You’d be amazed to see how imaginative a 42-year-old who thinks like a nine-year-old can be. I’ve been scolded and put in timeout once or twice, but overall it’s been a lot of fun.

We all woke up the morning of Saturday, January 12th, including the two babies who both wake calmly and with a smile every day. I have no idea why. Apparently that morning person gene skips a generation, because it sure as hell didn’t come from my wife or myself. Next comes the eight-year-old, who is an absolute monster until she is fed though she’ll swear to you that she is not at all hungry. She’s like Joe Pesci in that Snickers commercial until you force something edible into her mouth. Then she is immediately the sweetest little girl alive. Saturday is always pancake day. We usually all get involved and make breakfast fun. This particular batch used up the last of our eggs, as well as the last of our milk, blueberries, and syrup. I was secretly having an anxiety attack knowing that I was only a week into my “sabbatical”, and already the fridge resembled the pantry in Mother Hubbard’s house. My lovely wife, who somehow can always read my thoughts and is the consummate optimist, looked at me across the breakfast table and gave me a wink. It was the look, smile, and wink as if to say, “we’re gonna be ok”. It was comforting to me, at least for the moment. My wife is one of the very few people I’ve ever met whom I genuinely trust completely.

After cleaning up from breakfast and getting all three kids settled into whatever they would be doing, I grabbed my coffee and ventured out to the back deck. I removed the last cigarette from my pack, placed it in my mouth and lit it. I sat down on the steps to my pier with my coffee, smoke, and thoughts and stared out at the water. This was kind of my “me” time, when I gather my thoughts, alleviate my anxiety, and cater to one of the few remaining vices I have left. I had no idea at the time that this would prove to be my last cigarette. There was nothing ceremonious or spectacular about it. In fact, I didn’t even really get to fully enjoy it because about half way through, I was called back inside abruptly to deal with a major crisis. It seems that one of my daughters’ My Little Ponies, who had achieved Pegasus status was now missing her wings and this required urgent and immediate attention. Yup, this is my world. This is what constitutes an emergency in my house. I sprung into action, climbed the stairs to the tower where my Princess dwells, and began my quest. Moments later, the wings were found – crisis averted – and all was right with the world again. I came back downstairs and remembered that I was now out of cigs. Even if I had wanted to relight the one I had just butted half way through, I could not because I’d stamped it out in a wet outdoor ashtray. My wife didn’t have to be at work for a few hours, so I could easily have jumped in the car, and gone by myself to the store right up the street and purchased another pack, but I didn’t.

This is where we’re going to call it quits for this week. No pun intended. We’ll pick up next week where we left off. I promised an update, so here it is. It’s now day 18, and I haven’t cheated, or waivered in the slightest. I’m less hateful, but I think I’m more “hated”. I’ll use the money I saved from cigarettes to buy new pants since the old ones no longer fit. Thanks for playing along.

Until next week,

Syd Nichols

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