When I saw the Writing Challenge for this week, I almost skipped it. Hey, no big deal. It’s not like I made some promise to myself or anything. It’s not like I have a long history of doing these or anything. It’s just that I only recently decided that doing the weekly writing challenges would be a good way to keep up my creative writing skills.So, there sat the topic of favorite things, with a caveat that it be about a meaningful possession, one with a history. And that is very, very hard for me. While I have quite a few wonderful memories, I’m somewhat short of physical reminders of those memories. They were either lost to the ravages of life (time, moves, damage, and let’s not forget people), never preserved in the moment, or never existed in the first place.
Sure, I have a few things that have been handed down, but as wonderful as they all are, none qualify as my most meaningful possession. Perhaps I’ve learned to let go of the physical and instead hold on to the memory.
If pressed, I might talk about the little wooden box that sits on my dresser. It’s carved wood, vaguely Asian style and it was my grandmother’s. But that’s not what makes the box special. The box is filled with cards and letters – correspondence between me and my husband. I can track the blossoming of our relationship by going through the contents of that box.
As beautiful as those thoughts are, as much as I like having all those little notes and cards and snippets of our lives, if that box disappeared today I would be sad, but not devastated. All of those things are physical expressions of something you can’t capture in a mere thing. It takes the human heart and mind to capture love and joy and friendship.
I have a few of my mother’s old cookbooks – some of them are on the verge of falling apart. At one point, I planned to pull the recipes I actually used from them and throw the rest away. I also planned to transcribe all of Mom’s little scraps of paper into digital files so I could toss the odd receipts, realtor’s notepads, backs of envelopes and other bits on which she would scribble recipes to share.
When I was just starting that project, I stopped myself. Seeing my mother’s handwriting called up too many memories and I realized I couldn’t throw all those scraps of paper away. As silly as it seemed, those little notes straight out of everyday life had taken on precious meaning. I have since copied the recipes into digital format, but I’ve kept all those little scraps of paper.
Like the snippets that live in my wooden box, these little pieces of paper tell a story of a life lived. They tell a story of motherly love, of nurturing and caring. They paint a picture of a creative person, who loved to cook and bake and who shared the fruits of her labor with anyone and everyone who crossed her path.
Looking at them now, they also say a lot about me. The same things that made Mom jot her recipes and cooking ideas down on any odd piece of paper she could find are the things that shaped me into who I am. I realize why I’m so at home in the kitchen. I understand why feeding people makes me feel so good.
All because of a little scrap of old paper covered in my mother’s pretty handwriting that reads, “Stir 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and a pinch of nutmeg and clove into the flour mixture. Continue adding cinnamon until the flour looks like sand and smells like Christmas.”