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Kitchen Objects and Memory

August 1, 2010

About two months after my grandmother died, I stumbled upon a generous Williams-Sonoma gift certificate she and my grandfather gave us. It was a Christmas gift, which slid into a pile of papers, only to be discovered during a period of mourning. It was hard to digest. Here, I have the last gift from my grandmother, oh the pressure. AAM and I decided that we wanted to get something of heirloom quality, no oils and herbs with this gift certificate. We talked about a special plate or Le Crueset pan. I revisit the Williams-Sonoma website every few weeks searching for the cooking heirloom that would represent my grandmother. I look for something Italian, which would make her proud. I try to come up with the perfect gift that reminds me of her. I want to look at that object and think of her. However, perhaps because I am not ready for this gift and the finality of her passing, I close the computer and walk away. I won’t even enter the brick and mortar store, because I know the trip would consist of hopeless wandering through kitchen trinkets. The entire thing is a seemingly trivial sentimentailty weighing on my shoulder.

When my grandmother passed, my aunts helped the grandchildren pick out a piece of her jewelry that reminded them of her. Although there were some wonderfully fancy pieces, my heart was set on a simple mother and child gold piece. I don’t wear gold, but she wore that necklace so often that I can’t picture my grandmother not wearing it. Now, I wear it when I am sad or think of her. I can touch it and be reminded of her heart. Because I couldn’t wear it when I was getting my c-section, AAM wore it under his scrubs. It was my hope that she was there, and hopefully she could share the joy of the day. I also saved a necklace for little Serafina, a cross for her confirmation day.

It is this time of year that is so hard for us, August is the birthday month of all of my grandparents, but it is also when Serafina was diagnosed with lung cancer. Last year, the same month we learned about becoming pregnant, I learned of my grandmother’s terminal diagnosis. We checked with the doctor, and hurried to Richmond. I wanted her to know so badly, but once we shared the news I could see her realization, that she would not meet the baby, and she started to cry. It was a painfully difficult moment in my life, to bring news of joy that could not be shared. To be so terribly excited, but also terrified about what the future months were going to bring, was torture.

So this trivial gift certificate, this piece of plastic, doesn’t really mean anything but I make it symbolize everything. I have so much grief attached to it, that I am scared of transferring the grief to a trivial item. In fact, it might be in the disappointment of the loss where I can’t find a silly kitchen object that represents her. I know whatever I purchase won’t be of her, but it will be about her to me. In the end, I look at the card and know that objects mean nothing, but the experience is everything. The card was a perfect thought, and the chance to find something that represents her love would be wonderful, but it will never be as special as having Little Serafina meeting her great grandmother Serafina.

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