I wrote last spring of my grandmother’s passing. I won an award for that column. Love the award, still hate that I had the occasion to write it.
I’ve since written of the generosity of my ancestors. I come from a long line of curators. They lovingly get and keep all our collective family history.
They really aren’t hoarders or anything negative. They keep neat and precise records, photographs, and more antiques than even most museums can imagine. Need to put your hand on the exquisite glass basket that my great-great-grandmother used in her wedding in 1890-something. We’ve got that.
I am further blessed to come from a long line of people who are generous. With great grace, the belongings of my grandmother’s home have been divvied up.
We walked through the house together, choosing the items we would like to have to remember her by.
My cousin asked for the “don’t touch this” lamp. Apparently as a young boy he knew not to touch it, so of course he wanted nothing but to touch that lamp. It makes me smile to imagine him now at thirty-something, lovingly touching that lamp.
Slowly, we carved off pieces of my grandmother’s collective existence. So many lovely antiques. Exquisite glassware. Artwork, rugs and quilts.
There are so many beautiful pieces in my grandmother’s home that fit perfectly in mine. Our home is old, so antiques work. Lots of age and style. So what did I cart off from my grandmother’s wealth of antique treasures that means more to me than almost anything else?
Yes, spoons. Common, ordinary, everyday kitchen spoons. I guess they could be dining room spoons, but I can tell you that in our lifetime, they rarely, if ever, were.
My great-grandmother, my grandmother’s mother, hailed from a time when you had very fancy dishes for holidays and special occasions. Fortunately, we had enough family gatherings that we did build a storehouse of memories about those dishes.
I know I was always enamored of a gold-colored flatware set. Yes, gold. I believe it hailed from the 1950s and let me tell you it was swanky. Holidays and bridge parties. You could be the talk of the town with those babies.
What I wanted, however, were the everyday spoons. Heavy and smooth, the entire set is probably 60 years old. That’s a lot of sipping of soup and tea.
When my great-grandmother passed and her home was emptied, those spoons and knives and forks moved to my grandmother’s house as her own memory of her parents.
We would use those spoons for another 2 1/2 decades at Gram’s house. How many times did my cousins and I stand over a sink full of hot, soapy water, making our teenage chatter as we washed those spoons among other things.
Now they have come to my home. They are obviously quality since they’ve been in constant use for six decades, and I plan to use them more.
I have always said I am a user. By this, I mean I believe in using things — not tucking them away in boxes and bins in attics and basements (never basements, shudder).
I believe that memories and meaning are not born in bringing things out once every decade, dusting them off and trying to get your children to understand that these things were meaningful once. Memories are built in the things used throughout our lives.
What’s more, my son now slurps cereal off a spoon that his great-great-grandfather ate off of as well. The spoons serve up a collective carry forward of family history — and a darn good bowl of soup.