When Great Uncle Marvin proposed to Great Aunt Martha, she told him she couldn’t marry him because she didn’t have a teakettle.
So he got her one.
He owned the general store in their tiny town so, perhaps, he found it there. It was an ordinary teakettle made of hammered copper. My aunt and uncle were married a long time and used their teakettle for many, many years. When Aunt Martha passed away, her sister Marion took it. By the time it came to me, it was too corroded on the inside to be of any use, but for some reason I will never know, my Great Aunt Marion left a note inside it before she died indicating I should have it.
Then a few years ago, on one of my infamous clear outs, I sold it in a garage sale. It wasn’t the kind of object I would put on display, and I dislike storing things in my basement or attic that I will never use. I live, perhaps a bit too stringently, by the maxim that if an item isn’t useful or beautiful, it should be pitched or passed along.
I regret selling that teakettle. Now that both of my parents have died, I understand something that I didn’t before. It has to do with family stories that are attached to certain objects and are in danger of being buried along with their authors. There was a story inside Aunt Martha’s teakettle that would materialize like a genii from a lamp each time it was brought out. I can still tell the story, I can even buff up the details, but I don’t have the prop to prove it. Alas, it feels as though I may have thrown out the baby with the bathwater.
Now, as I begin boxing items for yet another garage sale this summer, I am looking at my discards with a different perspective. The Useful or Beautiful measure still applies, but I have added Objets d’Art Historique to the stick in order to encompass those bits and bobs that add an element of curiosity, individuality or personal value to my own history.