I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but today I began my day with one. And I like it. Why not begin every day like this, I asked myself as I loaded the dishwasher after breakfast.
I can thank my now retired hard working career woman of a mother for enabling me with this delightful early morning experience of luxury; both enjoying my oatmeal on a regular weekday with a silver spoon, and then the freedom to put it in the dishwasher. It’s not that she bequeathed me a trust fund from her earnings, nor did she suggest I never work a day for the rest of my life, as the idiom might suggest; if anything, it is from her that I have learned the value of structure, discipline and persistent effort in all of life’s undertakings, whether great or small, intimate or public. Not to mention the importance of a resilient attitude through all the requisite ups and downs.
But she (as well as my dad) did lead by example and say with so many words: Life is short, enjoy it and all you have while you can. Use your beautiful, luxurious silverware every day, and why fret and make more housework for yourself than necessary: run it in the dishwasher. While it’s being washed, go out for a walk in the park instead, smell the roses. Write your blog.
One of our few family heirlooms, my grandmother’s pure sterling silver ware has intricate curlicue carved handles inspired by the traditional rosemaling or rose painting pattern of the Telemark region in Norway (as seen below). To give an idea of its preciousness today, one table spoon is about $150; a dinner knife, $200. So for a wedding gift, you might get one knife. I inherited place settings for 8 people, including many serving pieces. Lucky me.
It was around the time of my parents’ divorce when my mom was moving to a smaller apartment and was about to retire, that I noticed her silver ware had also moved from the “special” drawer in the dining room breakfront where it had been wrapped in plastic bags and felt pouches to prevent tarnishing, to being casually placed and exposed to oxygen in her kitchen drawer. While in Oslo for a visit, she served me dinner on my day of arrival, a weekday meal of fishcakes, carrots and potatoes, using her silver. “Wow, mamma, what’s the occasion?” I asked with a wink, thinking my visit, as marked by the Norwegian flag waving form her 3rd floor balcony, might be the catalyst for the fancy cutlery. “Oh that. I’ve decided, why not enjoy it every day?” Bringing a glistening carrot neatly pierced on the tines of the Telemark silver fork to her mouth, she gave a slight shrug with her upper body suggesting she felt justified and had mostly come to terms with her own “transgression,” as if she was responding to the ghosts of generations of raised eyebrows questioning her on this and her other radical indiscretions when it comes to tradition. She might have said “Every day is a celebration! I am letting go!” but this exuberance was left for me to write later. However, it came from her. My mother.
If you are of Norwegian stock, you may have groaned in disapproval (or heard your mother in the recesses of your mind) at the mention of the silverware in the dishwasher. This is one of the great cultural taboos, suggesting perhaps my utter lack of respect for safeguarding the traditional handling of the family jewels by hand washing them. Alas, as the VikingJewess of perpetual cultural and traditional in-betweenness that I am, it is possible I have lost some of my touch with, or reverence for, one tradition as I have been hard at work learning about and safeguarding the other. While both my born Norwegian heritage and my adopted Jewish one deeply move and inspire me, I have also come to realize that life is too short to do anything to perfection. And what is that anyway, perfection? Imperfection summons curiosity and inquiry; the story is found in the flaws, lodged in there like a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed.