My daughter, when she was very young, had a best friend who spent many hours at our house. They were friends from the time they were born and had that kind of closeness that comes with growing up together. In their creative play they used their imaginations and whatever props they found around the house.
One of their favorite games involved gathering spoons from my kitchen drawers and carrying them in an old briefcase to their “house” under the dining room table. The friend called a spoon a “spung” and a briefcase a “broofcase.” Those words became a permanent part of my vocabulary.
Spoons carry with them associations and meaning. A favorite painting – “Sam’s Spoon” by Avigdor Arikha, shows a single silver spoon resting on a white cloth. When Arikha’s daughter was born, his friend Samuel Beckett gave him the christening spoon that had been given to him as a baby.
I treasure a set of spoons that belonged to my Aunt Hattie. They’re engraved with the letter “C,” (her married name was Cannon) and my mother thought I should have them because my name began with that letter. The spoons sit inside a satin-lined box that seems made just for them. They’re paper thin and probably useless for anything but stirring tea or eating the most delicate of puddings.
My kitchen drawer still holds colorful utensils used by my grandsons, who found more delight in the object holding the food than the food itself.
The kitchen table on the Hall farm was used for every chore from plucking chickens to paying bills. But at three o’clock every afternoon my grandmother cleared the table of all but the coffee pot, pitcher of cream or can of evaporated milk, tin of cookies, sugar bowl, cups and saucers, and the jar of spoons.
Stirring the coffee was a ceremony, and I can picture my mother, uncles, aunts, and grandparents sitting around the table reaching for one of the spoons as they relaxed and talked and found a focus in the day. It was handy to have the spoons right there – to not have to get up and go to the silverware drawer or stir the coffee with your finger. I’ve tried several times to have my own spoon jar, but with no success. Times are different. We don’t drink coffee at the kitchen table, and we have reading glasses and pens in our jar instead of spoons.
I suppose the children could just as easily have played with forks, but there’s something soothing about spoons, especially when they sit bowl-side up in a special container. My daughter has her own house now, and in the middle of her dining room table is a box full of tiny spoons made for stirring a small cup of espresso, or as my mother used to call it, “a demi-task.” My mother and my daughter’s friend both added color to our spoken language, and now I always stir my demi-task with a tiny spung.
On Wednesday: Things I Remember About the Farmhouse Bathroom