Matt and I pull into the parking stall of our camp sight, and our first task is to unload the car and dump our gear onto the picnic table. A slight breeze floats through the pine trees cooling us from the sun’s burning touch and the blue lake water invites us in for a swim. The invitation is tempting, but first the labor of setting up camp. I dig into the big green tub looking for kitchen stuff and my breath catches when my eyes focus on the old set of silverware. When I was a little girl, we had a cabin in Big Bear, California, which is where Mom used the silverware. After both of my parents had passed, the set came to me. It’s black and silver, service for six, a little faded, but I couldn’t believe how sturdy it was to have lasted over fifty years. At the time, I didn’t give it much thought, so I added it to our camping paraphernalia.
As Matt and I enjoy the stir fry dinner he prepares on the first night, the old silverware evokes fond memories. An image of our cabin on the corner lot enfolded by sugar pines comes to mind. I remind Matt of the time when our little brave dog, Duffy, climbed up the snow bank, standing on the roof as if to say, “I am King!” That cozy mountain retreat also held many kitchen-table conversations full of laughter. Although Matt never had the chance to see the cabin, he remembers Mom’s delicious cooking. We especially savored her lasagna that was contest-winner-worthy. I recall the aroma swirling around, enticing Dad, my sisters, and me as we were eager to capture it and dig into the mouth-watering dish. I line up evenly in my mind each nuance of those childhood memories with my parents – days of playing badminton under a cloudless sky and a blazing sun, and then tobogganing when the ground was blanketed in snow and the temperature was bitter cold.
I am wrapped in a sentimental blanket on this trip, thinking of Mom and Dad, wishing I could feel their hugs, hear their laughter, and listen to their advice one more time. But would one more time still be enough? I don’t wallow in sadness; instead, I revel in the good times letting the memories advance like pictures on a camera roll. Before Matt and I realize, the campfires, swimming, hiking, and reminiscing have catapulted time into lightning speed. Our trip has ended and in the blink of an eye, we’re home doing clean-up. It dawns on me that I don’t want this set stashed away again, hidden beneath pots and pans and forgotten until the next trip. These forks, knives, and spoons have their own stories to tell. I combine them with our sets and I’m not bothered that they don’t match our decor. Years ago, the difference would’ve mattered. Now, life is a far cry from when mom and dad were still with us, so as we sit at our table using this shiny silverware, the family tales continue. We smile, we laugh, and now and then, tears that we thought had dried up, slowly find their way down our cheeks again.
Maybe I didn’t see the true value when this set was given to me. Perhaps I was blinded by tears, existing in my world of grief where a dark cloud was parked above my head. It could be that I hadn’t processed the finality of their death. I would see them again, wouldn’t I? The phone will ring and I’ll listen to Mom’s, “I just wanted to hear your voice.” Or, they’ll be over for lunch next week. When enough time had passed, reality sank in: I acknowledged their passing for what it was and accepted the truth. So, the timing and how I stumbled upon this treasure was relevant. My grieving had ended, widening the gap for remembering all the good things that keep us moving forward when we lose a loved one. Even in this set’s simplicity, its silver clean lines prove to be a nostalgic gem never to be buried again.
The painting of our cabin was done by a friend in Big Bear and my sister has it in her house – a treasure to keep forever.
Lauren Scott (c) 2020