My grandmother at her surprise 90th birthday party. Photo credit: Jack Greenman
My grandmother Kevin had a particular way of doing, well, everything. She ran her home with the precision of the Marine she was, so my brother and I worked on a tightly orchestrated schedule. Friday nights were spent vacuuming and dusting before settling in to watch Lawrence Welk. My brother and I alternated jobs, and Granny used an actual white glove to test the quality of our dusting. No matter what, the chores had to be correctly completed before Mr. Welk, and his dancers took the stage.
One set of jobs my brother and I couldn’t manage to alternate were the post-dinner dishwashing/drying duties. We bickered too much. So Granny washed while one of us dried. We had very specific dishtowels to use solely for dish drying and, under no circumstances, were we to touch the clean dishes with anything but the dishtowel. She taught us how to hold the silverware, dry each piece, and slide them one-by-one into their appropriate drawer slot — without so much as a fingertip touching the clean flatware.
I didn’t realize how unusual this behavior was until one of my roommates commented on how long it took me to dry dishes (they couldn’t remain in the strainer to dry overnight). When she saw how I fastidiously dried and sorted our silverware, my roommate bent over, laughing. My cheeks burned in embarrassment.
The memory box created by my cousin Cindy using my grandmother’s dishtowel and flatware.
It’s funny, but when I think about my grandmother, her beautiful flatware comes to mind (that and the Great Bobby Clarke Showdown, but that’s a story for another day). They were stainless steel with burnished walnut handles held into place by golden rivets. In the early 90s, my grandmother moved from our family home into a small apartment and, from there, to assisted living as her eyesight gave way to her diabetes. Somewhere along the way, the silverware ended up with my eldest cousin Cindy.
Cindy is eight years my senior and the craftiest person I know, followed closely by her mother, my Aunt Bea (yes, I do have my very own Aunt Bea!). The Christmas after my grandmother died, I received from Cindy an unusual, yet perfect, gift and one that still hangs in my kitchen: a memory box created using my grandmother’s dishtowels and one set of my grandmother’s cutlery. Cindy wrote a lovely poem to accompany the physical items. It remains one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.
What I love most about this gift is that it reminds me daily of my grandmother and it captured a simpler time in my life so perfectly. Cindy created similar boxes for my brother and her siblings. The stories flowed as we unwrapped our gifts, connecting the past to the present in a way that still brings a smile to my face.
My grandmother may live only in my memory, but when I dry my cutlery, I still do it the “right” way.
What’s a unique and special gift you received? Share your story and a picture of it in the comments below.