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.
“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.
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.