Autumn’s cooler weather has me in the baking mode and each time I get out my cookie sheets, I think of my parents, long gone from this world. These old cookie sheets are unique things.
I remember the day Daddy brought them home, in the form of a saw blade casing. My father was an electrician working on the construction of a power dam. Someone had brought in a huge blade for a power saw and discarded the aluminum case it was packaged in. Round, flat, 24 inches across, to him the two halves looked like cookie sheets. And so they have served for over 50 years.
The scoop in my sugar canister is older than the baking sheets and one of a kind because my father fashioned it from a condensed milk can. I grew up watching Mama scoop sugar with it and hearing the stories of how poor they started out and the many ways they improvised. She was pleased he had used his creativity to make her life easier.
These two kitchen tools are mine now and I treasure them, not for their intrinsic value, which is nil, but for the memories they hold. They are mere things, but priceless.
When people lose their home in a fire, or the contents in a flood, we often hear them lament the loss of photographs. I understand that but I think what they’re really grieving is the memories that come with looking at the photos. I feel the same way about my cookie sheets.
Folks who suffer a disaster also will usually first say something about “thankful to be alive…things can be replaced.” But they often sift through the remains looking for mementos: a wedding ring, charred letters, a gift or a toy from childhood. Even if the things are ruined or useless, they are treasures to be salvaged for the memories they hold.
There seems to be something about touching an old thing that takes us back in time.
I enjoyed watching Mama crochet doilies and embroider fancy linens. Many of them were for my hope chest and it’s nostalgic to use them and remember her comments as she was creating them.
I inherited my maternal grandmother’s ruby sugar bowl and cream pitcher. Mama used the cream pitcher to put water in her steam iron. Looking at these items gives me a connection to a grandmother I never knew.
Some of the treasures have been lost through the years. Mom had a pair of cobalt blue vases in the window for years. They were shaped like bass fiddles, unique and often admired by visitors. When she downsized and moved to an apartment in her old age, she gave them to a favorite niece. My sister was heartbroken over it.
When I found an identical vase in an antique store, I bought it, invented provenance to go with it, and tried to restore the memory for her. It’s not Mama’s vase, but I hope it still helps my sister think of her.
During this season of giving, I hope folks won’t despair of giving the most elaborate, the most expensive gifts. Give them the most valuable things: give memories.