Monday, May 30, 2011

An Ashy Flashback

On the day my lemon tree was confiscated a couple of weeks ago, after a relaxing outdoor lunch I took my kids (When can I call them my adults?) to a funky shop in town where my entire childhood is on sale. They were unimpressed by double knit polyester, which my mother thought was a requirement for an article of clothing during the time we were growing up. I didn't know we even OWNED an iron until I was 16 and bought my first cotton shirt. They were slightly interested in the vintage martini glasses and funky serving trays. But the thing that they absolutely marveled at were the ashtrays.

You remember those, don't you?

Two young people who have grown up in the last twenty five years or so cannot imagine a time when it seemed everyone smoked. They stare at me in astonishment when I explain that I used to be sent into the gas station to buy cigarettes for my mother at the age of 8 or 9. They look at me with disbelief when I tell them that in junior high there was a "smoker's pit" outside the cafeteria where smokers (teachers AND students) could go to smoke. You would think I had two heads.

My daughter picked up one ashtray weighing 10 pounds or so and gave me a quizzical look.

"It would have sat on the coffee table, probably part of a set that included a lighter and cigarette case."

"Who needs room for 60 cigarettes?"

"Think cocktail party, but it would have been a decorative piece left on the coffee table."

It was a different day. I recently called my son into the room to see a hospital scene from an old movie I was watching where the patient was smoking in bed while he talked to the doctor. He was dumbfounded. One generation can make such a difference.  The smokers have gone from being
completely socially acceptable to a kind of societal pariah, banned from nearly all public spaces, including recently some outdoor ones. When traveling not long ago and making my way through the Frankfurt Airport I saw that in Germany, they have taken to relegating the smokers to cages...of sorts.

Seeing this made my inner child (who spent one too many hours trapped in a car with two smoking parents) very happy.


  1. i remember a next door neighbor and an uncle who smoked... my parents did not. we had one medium sized ashtray that was from firestone tires. it looked like a tire with a ramekin in the middle, that was removable for washing. we kept it in a drawer until one of them visited.