We were in the sitting room enjoying a cup of afternoon tea and a plate of scones when my husband suddenly rushed out of the room and returned with his camera. He spent the next few minutes snapping dozens of photos. It wasn't the dining room table or chairs he was photographing, nor was it the metal bowl full of paper snowballs; it was the late afternoon sunlight pouring in through the slats of the sitting room blinds that had caught his eye.
There is more than one reason why I married that man.
You may have noticed my bouquet of wooden spoons on the kitchen counter in a recent post. We were talking appliances at the time, and my spoons were content to bide awhile till I was in the mood to feature them in their own post. I keep them out on the counter because they remind me of the color of toasted pine nuts...too pleasing to stuff in a kitchen drawer.
Many of these spoons have a story or memory attached to them. For instance, there is the olive wood implement my husband bought and has asked me not to leave soaking in the dishwater as it will sully its character; the other spoons do not seem offended in the least by this preferential treatment. And there are two, small, bone-handled spoons which have immigrated from Africa and are perfect for tasting the sauce or soup. There is even an interloper hiding among the handles which isn't a spoon at all; it is the beautifully grained cheese spreader I bought from a weekend craft market in a church courtyard in London. I rarely use it because I am afraid it will lose its tree smell. You would understand my reluctance, perhaps, if I told you that I go all goofy in lumber yards and stroll around sniffing planks like a cat with catnip.
There are others as well, but the one I hold most dear is the porridge spoon. It really isn't a spoon, more of a spatula or stick. It was my father's and the only utensil he would use to stir his morning porridge. When I visited my parents and made breakfast for them, I would search their crowded kitchen crock for it to make their oatmeal. When I knew my parents were dying, I asked if I could have it. It is now our designated porridge stick and woe to the one who gets caught stirring garlic or onions with it.
I found a fading date scratched into its handle: 1949. I know, without being told, it is my father's writing. I never had the chance to ask him what it meant, but I suspect it is the year he bought it. He died four years ago, but today is his birthday. He would have been 90. It seemed fitting, therefore, to mark the day with a remembrance of something we have shared.
shuffled its wide, flat feet, snorting clouds of dust in the bare enclosure.
There was nothing between me and the mountainous gray bulk, but its
keeper—nothing to make a timid young girl feel safe from the wild impulses of the jungle creature. Tiny brown eyes, sunk in whorls of flesh as rough and seamed
as tree bark, peered calmly out at me from a massive head, but the long,
questing nose and ropey tail were restless. This elephant didn’t look nearly as
civilized as King Babar did in my picture books, and I couldn’t imagine him
wearing either a suit or a hat.
I was anxious for
what was to come, but a bubble of excitement kept me from turning around and
running back to cling to my grandmother’s leg. My younger sister and I were
going to ride the elephant, and instinctively, I felt it was the kind of thing
I might never have the chance to do again.
I had been envious
when my older brother and sister had ridden the train to Seattle to spend a
weekend with my grandmother; envious of the small cardboard suitcases they
clutched in their hands; of the attention the conductor gave them as he helped
them to board; of their smiling faces and exuberant hand-wavings at the window as the train pulled away
from the station. All of that was gone now, eclipsed by an elephant.
It was the first
adventure I remember having—something so out of the ordinary I would remember
it for the rest of my life. Even though the elephant I rode was a tamed zoo
animal, in my imagination it was a wild beast fresh from the jungles of Borneo;
the kind I had seen in a book, hoisting logs with its trunk like a
Years later, as I
read about the treatment many such animals in captivity received at the hands
of their trainers, I felt pangs of sympathy and regret, hoping my elephant had
been spared; but the burden of knowledge did not rob me of the magic of memory.
The joy of riding an elephant was wrapped in the innocence of childhood, and was the
first of many windows that would open to show me that the world is a wondrous place.
I have a curious relationship with some of my small
electrical appliances. I am as thankful for my food processor, blender and
mixer as I am for my dentist or the teller who handles my house payment at the
bank. They each provide a service that makes life easier, but one does
tend to take them for granted.
Not so the toaster and tea kettle. Those two appliances are
like family. My fondness for tea and
toast is so ardent that I have written poetry about them. There is no poetry forthcoming for their progenitors, but they are surely deserving of a blog post.
When my friendly little red toaster stopped working properly
a few years ago, my husband talked me into buying a brushed stainless usurper
that glares at me from the kitchen counter like a one-eyed cyborg. It is a
little disconcerting to wake up to a cyborg each morning, so when I decided to
buy an electric tea kettle instead of heating water on the stove in my cheerful
green Le Creuset, it was necessary to find a friendly one.
I found Smeg.
Six weeks later, it feels as if Smeg and I have known each
other for years. Best of all, I think one of my tea cozies is smitten.
It has been day after day of sullen gray around here. But it has also been warmer than usual with not a speck of snow to show that it is winter. It brings the squirrels out of hiding to forage for food. My lovely pumpkin collapsed in the thaw, thereby thwarting its ill-fated attempt to reinvent itself as a Cinderella coach. All is not lost. In a final gesture of friendship, it surrendered its golden aspirations to the needs of the squirrel-folk.
Punkybean knows that I have visited Buckingham Palace and taken pictures of the Queen's guard outside the gates. The subject came up last year as we were stuffing black olives onto our fingertips and pretending they were British soldiers. It came up again after we watched the Minions movie. It also came up after we watched the BFG movie together on my birthday this year. Punkybean has repeatedly asked me to take her with me the next time I go to London so that I can introduce her to Queen Elizabeth. I haven't the heart to disabuse her of her notion that I am on speaking terms with Her Majesty. It's right up there with Santa and the Fairies. She thinks I know them too.
One night at supper recently, she asked her mother: "Mommy, what if I moved to England for a long time and learned to speak England language...when I moved back, would you have to teach me to speak English again?"