spoon stories and the matter of value

Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

“You see that – that’s it right there.  That’s the gene I didn’t get.”  – Marin on the phone to her mother, Erica, remarking on her cool attitude after learning that her Dad was marrying a younger woman. 

Something’s Gotta Give is my Godfather, really.

Erica Barry is this “high-strung over-amped controlling know-it-all neurotic…who’s incredibly cute and lovable”,  and makes living on her own terms looks as easy as ordering dinner in French – if you speak French.  What I love about Diane Keaton in this role is the way she models a mother who has creative gumption for a daughter who’s still trying to catch some.

I can relate to that pursuit.  I recognize now that I was learning to summon worth any time I’ve ever had to name myself instead of waiting for a title.  Just like my mother. This week I was softly reminded of when my lessons began.

Taking out the taped up wooden box where my silver sleeps and opening it up last week made me woozy.  It was too beautiful.  Thanksgiving gave me the chance to put it to work, feeding people once more, but not before it took my breath away.

Josephine, circa 1855, was Mary Todd Lincoln’s pattern.

I had not seen it in over five years, the collection she gathered for me that pre and post-dates her.  An antique dealer, herself, my mother used to take time to learn the stories of each piece she bought, whether to keep or to sell.

All coin silver (early American silver made prior to 1870) has a mark or markings, which are their signatures, so-to-speak.  Mom did all she could to identify the markings of each piece she acquired by searching her books, which piled open around her on our kitchen table.

She did it because the history and age of something not only told its story but dictated its value.  These values translated to meanings.

It’s been 16 years – and I have worn a rut in with world from all times I have walked around the story of my mother’s life.   Yet, I keep finding lessons on the path where God has left them for me because he knew I’d come back here – to this spot to feel this again.

Carol, my mother, had starting a business at the behest of her wild-eyed antique-loving friend, Lee Peacock, and they took the risk of opening their first shop together in Georgetown, MA when I was too little to be left at home.  Becoming a woman in business for herself meant choosing her own title and assuming it, with no college degree or professional authority but her knowledge.  By the end of her life, she had followed that passion for 30+ years and inspired me and our family to never call fascination crazy.  Not because she was a wild success but because it always matters, what we love and why.

Right before my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, she had just determined that one of her silver spoons had a value beyond the story that it carried.  It was the find of her career.  But money meant nothing because she literally had months to live.  What mattered to her was that she carried a secret that years of devoted study had earned her – something about which she was certain, despite local opinions.   For her, the timing was perfect; the reward, just in time.

Just like a silver spoon, marked by its maker, bears its name and worth, how we come to understand our value is the story we are always telling.

This year, before the silver is put back to bed, I’m lingering at the table.  She’s still talking and I’m not through being mothered.  There will always be more lessons wrapped around old pain and spoon stories, for as many days as I go back to hold them.


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