Our recent houseguest, Jane Devin, smokes an occasional cigarette. We maintain a smoke-free environment here at Casa de Ross, but have a special place for our smoking relatives and friends to discreetly burn one. I call it The Smoking Room. It's a small but private porch outside of the walkout basement.
The weekend delivered snow, so the boys spent much of Sunday afternoon building a snowman and snow cave in the backyard. Jane was at Starbucks and I was upstairs when Chris heard simultaneous, frantic knocks at two of our doors -- a back door, and a garage door. Oldest Boy  was at one, and Middle Boy  was at the other.
Chris answered Oldest Boy's knock at the back door first. "Dad! There's cigarettes down by the basement. They're in a shallow dish."
Chris told Oldest Boy to hold on a moment. He then answered Middle Boy's knock at the garage door. "Dad! There's a pile of cigarettes. In a dish!"
Jane's full, shallow dish was sitting on a window ledge outside. The boys had to walk down the snowy stairs to the lower porch and must have searched to find it. They couldn't get to Chris or me fast enough.It was tucked in the far left hand corner of this space.
Chris explained to each boy that the cigarettes were Ms. Devin's. Oldest Boy wanted to know if it was okay that Ms. Devin smoked. Chris said she was an adult and it was her choice to smoke cigarettes as long as she didn't expose others to secondhand smoke.
When Jane returned from Starbucks, I couldn't wait to tell her that the boys had visited The Smoking Room and discovered her habit. Middle Boy considers himself an artist and writer so I think he was particularly disturbed to know that Ms. Devin smoked. He glanced at her suspiciously for the rest of the afternoon but avoided eye contact, like he'd seen her naked by accident.
Later that evening, Middle Boy was still processing the cigarettes. "I thought it was a joke at first, Mom. Like they were fake. But then? I smelled them, and they were REAL. I know it wasn't good for my lungs, but I had to know. Then I ran and told Dad."
I still haven't educated the boys that the word for a shallow dish that holds cigarettes butts and ashes, is ashtray. I also haven't told Middle Boy that simply sniffing an extinguished cigarette probably won't harm his lungs.
I DID show them the shallow dish we offer to all of our guests who smoke...