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Stuff and Nonsense

In the last six weeks, we’ve refinished the wood floors in the house, painted one room that was long overdue for it, and refurbished an aging set of plantation shutters. This burst of home improvement required emptying rooms and stripping closets and shelves for a while.

As stuff goes, we try not to accumulate too much. Compared with some, we don’t have a lot. But even what we have seemed overwhelming when sprawled everywhere in one big fearful jumble in the living room while we sanded, spread varathane, and painted.

The upside of the chaos was becoming reacquainted with these spoons. When I helped my mother get ready to sell her townhouse in New Jersey in 2002, sifting through a lifetime of her things, I came across a shoebox of blackened spoons. Decades of tarnish had made one indistinguishable from the other.

Spoons Multiple Cities

“I don’t know what those are. Throw them out,” my mother said carelessly.

I’m glad I ignored that direction. Instead, I polished them, each one a treasure revealed. My mother, who had an unfortunate penchant for chucking out valuable things, had to concede that it was good we hadn’t flung these in the dustbin.

She had no recollection of how she came to have the spoons. The only hint of their era is the 1889 date on one of them. We wondered who had traveled to Boise, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Memphis? Was a Mardi Gras spoon once as popular as Mardi Gras beads are today? Were the spoons proffered as gifts, or were they someone’s personal collection of souvenirs? Did they belong to her mother or grandmother? A great-aunt? Or were they my father’s mother’s? What accounted for their relegation to a long-forgotten shoebox? No idea, and no one to ask.

This one, so intricately silversmithed, is my favorite.

Native American Spoon Front

I also like the mystery of this one. Maybe St. Mary’s Hospital doled these out in the maternity ward, giving literal meaning to being born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

St. Mary Hospital Spoon


About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

10 responses »

  1. Lovely spoons and photos, Treacy. Glad you didn’t throw them out.

  2. Wow, what a treasure for sure! Each one more interesting than the other. I also wonder about your loved one who sought out these unique pieces. Certainly they had to search on their travels for a special way to remember where they were. Thanks for sharing them!

    • Thanks for reading Linda. I called St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester, Minn. (now part of Mayo Clinic system) just on a whim. They said someone who handles their “historical queries” will get back to me. I’m curious to know more about that spoon. Maybe hospital meals were served with silver cutlery back in the day, and a patient filched it? xxoo

  3. I think they’re lovely, and I’d take them to a jeweler and have them bent into napkin rings and USE them!

  4. Another fabulous story. I love this. I immediately began trying to imagine who collected them and what her travels were like… I can’t wait to hear what St. Mary’s hospital says. You MUST report to your faithful fan base. xxoo

    • Thanks, cm, The hospital called right back — I was momentarily so excited. However, they were calling to ask if I was the same Treacy Colbert they had in their database from ages ago when I must have called about some story or other I was writing . . .

  5. These are amazing! The cut outs seem unusual to me. So glad you rescued them. The souvenir spoons of later decades can’t compare!

    I love small objects and probably won’t cure myself of that, but I really need to separate out the junk.


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