Monday, March 15, 2010

Silver in the South

Nothing comes between a southern woman and her silver.

My sister and I were discussing this as I helped dig through her storage unit—a surprisingly small accumulation of goods considering her recent move to a much smaller home. We were talking about everything we’d done to pay bills, provide for family, and simplify our lives over the couple of years or so. In need of cash, I had parted with a number of items that I no longer needed—sporting goods, décor, artwork, furniture. Some of those things had incredible memory attached to them. I cried when I put the violin up on the market, but fortunately no one bought it. I listed but could not sell two antique parlor chairs I had reupholstered myself—a blessing really, and maybe something I can pass down one of my children one day. The last item of true value though, is my silver pattern, Gorham’s La Scala, a tribute to Italian opera in delicate scrollwork and engraving. I could not bring myself to part from it. My mother would have me shot anyhow.

The silver pattern accumulated through the marriage isn’t just a wedding gift. It’s a heritage. Women in my family buried their silver to hide it from British soldiers during the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. Other women packed theirs away to soften the hard memories of widowhood. Some women managed to save it during the Great Depression. My sister doesn’t even have an everyday flatware—silver is all she has because, she says, it’s so pretty it must be used to be enjoyed. Her husband packs his lunch for work—Tupperware, insulated lunch bag, and a silver fork—much to the amusement of his co-workers.

I can put a new spin on the phrase “born with a silver spoon in her mouth” because we might have had nothing else, but somewhere in the house, carefully stored and preserved, was a family silver pattern. Hardship is temporary. We know that when we survive our wars, widowhood, divorces, market crashes, etc, and when our homes and lives are back to some degree of predictability, we’ll have regretted selling the silver. My own pattern is still neatly packed and stored safely. I’m not ready to bring it out to regular use yet, but just knowing it’s still there is a piece of priceless sanity.

1 comment:

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